On Saturday 23 October, Stop the War Coalition held its annual Conference in Conway Hall to chart the way forward for the anti-war movement. Branches and affiliated organisations sent delegates to debate resolutions and matters of importance for anti-war work.
Amongst the very good motions was that from Finsbury Park Against War. This was overwhelmingly adopted by the delegates after the removal of one final paragraph. The resolution highlighted the rising level of threats made against Iran and called on the conference to oppose all threats and sanctions aimed at toppling the regime and its independent path of development, including its quite just and proper efforts to develop its peaceful nuclear programme.
This resolution helped to set the coalition on a secure anti-war footing in readiness for any attack on Iran, despite the attempts of some elements to include certain caveats in their ‘principled’ approach to anti-war work, particularly when it comes to preventing war and genocide in Iran! For these individuals, personal freedoms (or, rather, the western bourgeois perception of such freedoms) outweigh the fight to prevent the outbreak of war.
No secularist is in favour of religious government, but all the evidence shows that it is the free-market fundamentalists of the USA and Britain who pose the greatest threat to international peace, not the Islamists in Iran.
Furthermore, the resolution from Finsbury Park gained support for its call to support all those initiatives aimed at breaking the siege on Gaza. It was only with point 3 that Conference had any objection, and it won’t surprise regular readers of this paper to find out that the objectionable point 3 called for StWC to adopt a slogan resolutely in support of the Iraqi and Afghan resistance forces.
The power to stop war
Another excellent resolution was sent to this year’s conference by Bristol Stop the War group, moved by Comrade Ornella Sabeine, one of the heroes of the EDO decommissioning. Comrade Sabeine outlined the powerful example that has been set by the EDO Decommissioners and their not-guilty verdicts, which reinforce the legitimacy of taking direct action to prevent war crimes, and were a recognition of the growing level of public sympathy for such action.
Comrade Ornella called on the conference to heed its own declared policy of ‘no cooperation with war crimes’, which was adopted in 2009 when the coalition adopted a motion put forward by the CPGB-ML.
Moving that resolution in 2009, Comrade Ranjeet Brar pointed out that imperialism itself “has a one-point programme; and this is not the introduction of democracy, as it hypocritically claims, but domination; and it is only right and just that we oppose the machinations of Anglo-American imperialism wherever it lays its bloody hand”.
“It is not US coercion or chance, but the inevitable consequence of placing the profits of City bankers and energy and armaments magnates above all other interests that has led the Labour party down this free-market fundamentalist path.
“So why the deception? The imperialists cannot express their true motives because they know the truth of the motion’s second point: that the interests of British monopoly capitalism are not the interests of the nation as a whole, as they would like us to believe. In fact, they are diametrically opposed to the interests of the majority of British working people.
“Despite a section of British workers benefiting from the City’s wealth, imperialism brings for the majority – even in Britain – only the promise of deepening capitalist economic crisis, impoverishment, wage slavery and growing unemployment, public service cuts, crippling national debt to bail out billionaire bankers, spiralling inflation, and war without just cause, without just peace and without end in sight.
“Despite our apparent weakness, working people really do have the ability to veto the war. Not by demonstrations alone – important as they are – but by our refusal to cooperate with the daily industrial, logistical and military operations necessary to launch and sustain it.
“If our soldiers follow the example of SAS refusenik Ben Griffin, and refuse to fight, will the bankers fight and die in their own demoralising and unjust, criminal war? Of course they will not and cannot!
“If our transport workers follow the example of the 15 Aslef train drivers, and refuse to transport arms to the front, can the city financiers accomplish this task to continue their war effort themselves? Of course they cannot and will not!
“Let us campaign among our dock workers to follow the example of US west-coast dockers, who brought shipping to a standstill on May Day last year in protest against US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Is this not in the finest traditions of British working-class history?
“Let us petition workers at weapons companies to strike; let us salute and encourage direct action that frustrates the ability of arms manufacturers – such as Raytheon and EDO – to manufacture the merchandise of death.”
Time for action
Moving the CPGB-ML resolution at this year’s conference (full text below), Comrade Brar asked the delegates why it was that when so many public voices are against British imperialism’s wars and occupations, attacks have continued and operations have even expanded into neighbouring states such as Pakistan.
Comrade Brar asked: “Why do our ‘democratic institutions’ not respond to overwhelming public opinion?” adding that it never seems to matter which party is in power! He quite rightly characterised Labour, Tory and Lib-Dem alike as “parties of war”.
Moving the CPGB-ML resolution, entitled ‘No cooperation with war crimes: step up the campaign’, Comrade Ranjeet said that the answer to our failure to stop war has been discovered and put into practice by a number of activists, many of whom were in the audience. The motion praised the actions of the EDO Decommissioners, Joe Glenton, Raytheon activists and Palestinian activists and called for a concerted campaign in defence of these fighters and the working out of a programme of similar effective action by the anti-war movement as a whole.
The party’s resolution was overwhelmingly endorsed by the conference (just one delegate spoke and voted against the motion). The task that confronts us now is to see that the programme it contains is put into action.
We therefore call on all anti-imperialists and anti-war campaigners to give the resolution the widest possible circulation in order to generate discussion and to mobilise support for this important work. Talk to your local anti-war groups and let the national Stop the War office know if you’re ready to help with putting on meetings, fundraising, press campaigning etc.
Individually, we may be powerless, but together, we do have the power to stop imperialism’s criminal wars.
The CPGB-ML resolution reads as follows:
No cooperation with war crimes: step up the campaign
This conference notes the passing last year of a motion calling on the coalition “to do all in its power to promote a movement of industrial, political and military non-cooperation with all of imperialism’s aggressive war preparations and activities among British working people”.
Since that resolution was passed, many important developments have taken place, which on the one hand make this work more urgent, and on the other have created an atmosphere that is more receptive to our message.
Conference notes the attack on those condemning war crimes that was embodied in the draconian sentences handed down to the Gaza protestors. Conference further notes that these sentences were aimed not only at discouraging muslim youth from political activism, but also at dividing the anti-war and Palestine solidarity movements along racial lines, and branding Palestine solidarity as a ‘muslim’ issue.
Conference condemns the murder by Israeli commandos of nine solidarity activists aboard the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in May, despite the fact that the UN had called for the ships to be allowed to pass. Conference notes the UN’s recent findings that these murders were illegal – another war crime to add to the many being committed daily against the Palestinian people.
Conference further notes that in the atmosphere of international outrage that followed these murders, even Israeli-friendly politicians such as Cameron and Hague were forced to make statements condemning both the murders and the siege on Gaza.
Conference reaffirms its support for all those who have taken the lead in active non-cooperation over the past year, in particular for Joe Glenton, for the EDO Decommissioners, for the Gaza protestors, and for the many British participants in siege-busting missions by land and sea to Gaza.
Conference notes that the landmark acquittal in the case of the Decommissioners can only facilitate more actions of this kind, since it not only sets a legal precedent, but is a reflection of the general sense of disgust against Israeli war crimes in particular.
Conference reaffirms its belief that the majority of people in Britain are opposed to British imperialism’s wars, and considers that the time is ripe to make active non-cooperation a central theme of our work. Conference therefore calls on the incoming steering committee to take the line of non-cooperation into as many arenas as possible, including:
1. Putting on a fundraising concert to draw attention to the Gaza prisoners’ plight and to raise money towards a campaign to overturn their convictions.
2. Approaching Joe Glenton to take part in a national speaking tour against cooperation with the Afghan war.
3. Giving full backing, including maximum possible publicity, to all those groups or individuals, whether affiliated to the Coalition or not, who, like the EDO Decommissioners, the Raytheon activists and Joe Glenton, are targeted by the state for refusing to cooperate with, or for actively attempting to prevent, the illegal wars and bombings waged and backed by British imperialism.
4. Stepping up the campaign outside army recruitment centres and at army recruitment stalls in schools, colleges and universities, drawing attention to the war crimes committed by the British armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
5. Launching a full campaign inside the unions to draw attention to British, US and Israeli war crimes, with the aim of passing in each of them, and then at the TUC, motions condemning those crimes and calling on workers to refuse to cooperate in their commission, whether it be by making or moving munitions or other equipment, writing or broadcasting propaganda, or helping in any other way to smooth the path of the war machine.
6. Following the excellent example set by PSC (eg, the campaign to draw attention to pro-Israeli propaganda in Panorama) and Media Lens (eg, alerts drawing attention to the media’s cover-up of war crimes committed in Fallujah) and working with these and others to draw in as many members and supporters as possible to an ongoing campaign to hold the media to account for their pivotal role in apologising for, covering up and normalising British, US and Israeli war crimes.
7. Continuing and increasing the work already done to make Britain a place where war criminals, whether US, British or Israeli, can get no peace, through holding protests, through citizens’ arrests and through all other available channels, including using local, national and international courts to file charges and draw attention to their crimes.