Popular fronts - can we really work with the vanguard left?

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MH
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Mar 23 2004 23:56
Popular fronts - can we really work with the vanguard left?

James Venables, a prominent activist in Bristol STW, posted an intriguing report on Bristol Indymedia (see http://bristol.indymedia.org/newswire/display/14073/index.php) regarding Saturday's small anti-war protest in Bristol. In it he questions the future direction of the anti-war movement, raises some of the problems, and suggests a possible broadening of the campaign.

Bristol STW has managed to maintain a relatively 'independent' stance within the national STW movement, which is testimony to the number of independent (ie not affiliated to organised left groups) activists in Bristol. This is to be applauded, but it has not resolved the issues raised of working with organised leftist groups.

While the independents ponder where to go next, the leftist groups know exactly where they are going - into the electoral vehicle of the Respect Unity Coalition, an essentially SWP dominated front group seeking to build on the successes of the anti-war movement in mobilising people against war, that aims to contest local & European elections in June as a 'protest' against new Labour. There are many who argue that the SWP and their ilk have all along seen the anti-war movement as nothing but a modern day conveyor belt carrying new activists into their organisations. This is not to deny that they oppose the war, but to acknowledge that their end aim is to build their leftist parties, whether the war is stopped or not.

Recent developments have born this out - the SWP have dropped their last electoral vehicle the Socialist Alliance in favour of the RUC; in Bristol the fragile unity of Bristol STW seems to have been broken - witness in East Bristol for example the independents out flyposting/publicising the Bristol M20 events, whilst the SWP flypost for the London march and their Socialist review mag. I understand also that the response of Bristol STW to the call for a global day of action with events in Bristol, preceeded the decision of STW nationally to call a national demo, at which the RUC was heavily pushed (can James/others confirm this?).

It is noted that James in his report specifically does not mention the RUC speaker on Saturday's demo, nor indeed the RUC as a future option for Bristol STW. However, many indepedents must be wondering how much of their hard work against war has merely led people into the arms of the SWP/RUC?

Which begs that question, can we work in popular fronts with the leftists and their secodnary (or primary) agendas? Or should we concentrate on working independently of them, on building our own community class based networks on non-hierarchical lines?

What do you think? What will you do the next time a similar campaign comes along?

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PaulMarsh
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Mar 24 2004 07:32

There is also the associated issue of how we react to some of the groups the left brings with them - in the instance of STW/RUC- the Muslim Association of Britain.

MH
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Mar 25 2004 00:55

Valid point Paul. You seen any decent anarcho writings on the matter, cos I haven't. Let us know if you do?

Do you have any members/supporters in the SW you can encourage onto these forums, cos we ain't doing very well in encouraging participation here at present, and some of the comments on Indymedia make my blood boil.

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PaulMarsh
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Mar 25 2004 06:04
MH wrote:
Valid point Paul. You seen any decent anarcho writings on the matter, cos I haven't. Let us know if you do?

Do you have any members/supporters in the SW you can encourage onto these forums, cos we ain't doing very well in encouraging participation here at present, and some of the comments on Indymedia make my blood boil.

Will try.

There was a series of debates on Urban 75 re the Muslim Association of Britain, and the SWP's uncritical pitch towards the LEADERS of the Muslim community in Britain. A range of Anarchist views were put forward, including some exposes of the Muslim Association of Britain that showed it to be a deeply unpleasant group.

This is perhaps part of the problem enrager is facing - some Anarchists, for a variety of reasons, probably put more effort into U75 than their own groups websites, or enrager!

On the danger to the left of a non-critical alliance with Islamic groups, I have frequently cited "Rebels Without A Cause - The Failure of the left in Iran" by Maziar Behrooz (IB Taurius 2000).

This book outlines how groups on the revolutionary left failed to work with each other, or with more Liberal groups, throughout the days of the collapse of the Shah's regime, the Islamic Revolution, and the four years of chaos that followed before a fully Islamist Republic was set up.

Instead Marxists preferred to work with Islamists, as they were "the most committed anti-imperialists" (read of course anti-American)

The Ayatalloah's accepted their support, purged the country of Liberal and Western elements, then when finished ruthlessly turned on the left.

Marxists in Iran quite literally paid for their liberal approach to radical Islam with their lives.

We are not of course in a comparable situation here - Islamic Revolution is not about to break out in Portished! But the craven approach of the British left - uncritical, unprincipled, opportunistic and nieve - is in my opinion identical to their former comrades in Iran.

tree boy
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Mar 25 2004 10:32

It's my understanding that the national STW coalition called for a number of regional protests to support the global day of action marking the outbreak of war. A short while later the national demo in London was advertised.

In some ways it's a shame that people went from Bristol went to London as we could've done with the two coach loads of people to increase the size of e the local protest.

munkeeunit
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Mar 25 2004 18:21

Hello,

(Munkee Unit = James Venables)

Just to clarfify a few things which MH has raised. Tree Boy (see above) has already clarified that the Global Day Of Action, and the Bristol Demo, were called prior to the National Demo, & the National Demo itself was a clumsy about-face from the steering committee, who had already declared a National Day Of Action.

On the issue of the RUC, Bristol put a motion to the National STW conference, which was passed by conference, which states that:

"This conference recognises the achievements of the Stop the War Coalition in involving people across the political spectrum and re-affirms the political non-alignment of the Coalition."

So, the RUC is not a way forward for BSTW, and while they are the new arrivals on the scene, they have put themselves forward as a mainstream reformist party, so to ask whether the RUC is a way forward for BSTW, is really no different to asking whether any mainstream reformist party is the way forward for BSTW, and their newness doesn't change that.

the STW coalition, for all it's flaws and layers of hijacked structures, should answer to itself, and needs to address the question of it's future internally, and not through questions of the extent to which external structures (such as the RUC) should be imposed upon it as a solution to any problems of direction we may have.

With this in mind I chose not to mention the few words from the RUC speaker on Saturday, as the speeches we're impromtu, my report was a personal choice of who to promote, and formally the RUC should not expect to use our events to promote themselves, as ratified by conference. That's not to say they should be excluded, but they certainly aren't going to be preferentially promoted.

As for this...

"In Bristol the fragile unity of Bristol STW seems to have been broken..."

We have rifts between us more serious than disagreements over flyposting. It's is annoying, but not really that important an issue. There are also bonds within BSTW which are stronger than people may be given to believe given the excessive focus given to the habits of the SWP.... The fragile unity remains firmly in place.

MH
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Mar 28 2004 16:15

Thanks Paul, for your comments & references.

And thanks James (and tree boy), for the clarifications.

I would hope that Bristol STW maintains it's independence, and it's activities. However if it tries to develop beyond anti-war issues I'll be intrigued as whether the fragile unity holds, or whether political differences will come more to the fore.

At the same time it is going to be interesting to see what the SWP & their ilk do in the next few months with STW, nationally & locally. With the development of the RUC over the last 4 months, they seem to be clearing their decks - the ANL has gone, GR seems to be being wound up, along with the Socialist Alliance. Clearly the RUC, and their own party building willb e a priority for the next couple months, can they sustain involvement in STW too? And if they don't?