Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Stop the War Demo, Saturday 5th August

Sorry for the delay with this folks, it was a product of taking some recovery time from a particularly athletic beer-and-argument session with some AWL members in the pub after the demo, and of my not being arsed yesterday.

Like I said, what I'm going to offer are a few thoughts rather than a report per se - after all, you probably got those from the news agencies already.

Look, it wasn't all bad. Nobody could reasonably say that this was just a bad demo. Firstly it was bigger - a lot bigger - either than I expected it to be, or than the reports about it claimed. To be honest I think that the STWC official estimate of 100-150,000 may even be a little on the low side, and not be taking into account the vast numbers of stragglers. There were already people leaving when my part of the demo (which was about half way through) arrived at Parliament Square. It wasn't as big as Feb 2003, but it was definitely the biggest since, and by some distance.

There were obviously a lot of people on it who were not part of the usual "march and meeting" circuit, which is another good thing. If all the left ever does is mobilise its own members and periphery, then it will never get anywhere. So it was good to see what I would guess were a lot of new faces.

On the anorak side, there was also a fair bit of train spotting fare on the left as well, with groups that I thought had wound up years ago (the CPGB-ML!) managing to turn out contingents. There was even a rather sad and forlorn contingent consisting of the remnants of Workers' Power, which as Larrycain and I remarked to each other at the time, was somehow just saddening.


It was politically just degenerate. I never thought I would go on an anti-war demo where people would be chanting slogans in support of theocratic militias who progressives ought not simply to be supporting anyway, and who they certainly wouldn't be supporting if they were not safely tucked half way around the world from said militias. And yet there it was, in Arabic or English (according to your taste) - slogans in support of Hizbollah, Hizbollah T-Shirts (I await the CD of Hassan Nasrallah's greatest hits), Hizbollah flags stuck to SWP placards, you name it. And it was down to the political leadership of the demo by the SWP, no mistake.

Let's get this clear - I usually castigate people on the left who gratuitously bash the SWP. It seems to me a cheap stunt by people who would do better to talk to the odd working class person. But the SWP's craven search for a short cut to progressive anti-imperialist politics, to replace the difficult spadework of actual internationalist class politics, has led them to support groups like Hizbollah. The sight of SWP members joining in stupid (and oxymoronic) chants like "We are all anti-war! We are all Hizbollah!" - whether one supports Hizbollah or not, "anti-war" they clearly ain't - was just nauseating.

And then came Galloway's speech, during which he lionised not only Hassan Nasrallah as "the real leader of the Arab people", which may come as a surprise to people from Morocco to Dubai, but also Nasser (who's dead) and Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro (who are both Latin American). I therefore proclaim myself, Stroppy and Dave Osler as the "true leaders" of Papua New Guinea. Congratulations, folks.

Here's a video of the speech, so you can see it for yourselves:

One other anecdote. I was also deeply unimpressed to see a middle aged male member of the SWP, fresh from yelling about how "Zionists" like the AWL students whom he was addressing should not have been on the demo, whereas Hizbollah should be, cutting down a 19-year old female AWL member by shouting "shut up" at her when she attempted to reply. Nice to see there's no thuggery and sectarianism in that organisation, then.

The demo overall? Physically big but politically so, so poor. Get your act together, STWC.


Blogger stroppybird said...


" I therefore proclaim myself, Stroppy and Dave Osler as the "true leaders" of Papua New Guinea. Congratulations, folks."

And tomorrow world domination :-)

On a serious note I agree with your view of sections of the left and their alliances with reactionary groups. I did not go on the demo. I could not face it. Perhaps I should have, don't know.

I keep arguing about this and keep getting told I am being a neo con or , my personal favourite 'CIA Whore' (to clarify this is factually incorrect, I don't charge and I only shag lefties :-) )

I am anti war but I am critical of the strategy and alliances.

I find myself in an odd postion of arguing with people on the left for the basics of a secular socialism and a society that opposes discrimation and oppression of groups such as women and LGBT people.

I have been told that I should support groups like the Iraqi 'resistance' (people who kill other Iraqis, oppress women etc) as they are fighting Bush.
Principles seem to be dropped for short term gain, losing many activists in the process.

Oh dear, I could rant about this for ages.

btw, was your pin up YR there ?

3:11 AM  
Blogger voltaires_priest said...

"CIA Whore"

What saddo said that to you?

4:09 AM  
Blogger stroppybird said...

Ian Donovan in some comments on this post :


The man is a fuckwit!!

Those who disagreed with him were called CIA whores. I also got called a mouthpiece for Bush, that I was like Laura Bush and to top it all a liberal and supporter of the Euston Manifesto.

I was also lectured about women's rights !!

4:48 AM  
Blogger Jim Denham said...

Ian is basically a decent bloke but he clearly has a lot of problems and some of his attempts at polemic degenerate into pretty wild personal abuse. He needs help.

On the subject of the demo, I'm not surprised nor particularly upset that the likes of Galloway and the SWP came out with their usual wet dreams of Hizbullah destoying Israel, etc. It's much more worrying when a serious left winger like John McDonnell (as I understand it - I wasn't at the demo) seems to go along with them. There's also the tragic fact that an entire generation of subjectively progressive youth activists are being miseducated in the "anti-imperialism of fools".

5:03 AM  
Blogger stroppybird said...


"Ian is basically a decent bloke "

Sorry, I still consider him a fuckwit. Anyone who comes out with such crap insults and also lectures women about women's rights is a fuckwit in my opinion.

Trouble is he is not a one off on the left.

5:29 AM  
Blogger stroppybird said...

Anyway thats enough on him. My original point was the sorry state of the left . If only it was just a few individuals, but it isn't.

5:30 AM  
Blogger voltaires_priest said...

I think it's a sign of the left giving up on its larger project, that it's gotten into this state. So many groups have given up on the ideas of internationalism, human emancipation and progress (cue po/mo-influenced "Marxist" saying "like, dude, but progress is such a problematic term"), that they've begun to look for alternatives in which to have illusions instead. You no longer believe that socialism is a real goer, but Hizbollah are fighting "the Zionists", so they'll do as a second best option. Dress that simple choice up in a load of third-worldist waffle, and Bob's yer uncle, new Marxist political position.

The left taking the politics of "that'll do". How sad.

5:54 AM  
Blogger stroppybird said...


Its more than just sad, its destructive for the left. Its alienating activists and moving away from its principles.

6:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oooh I am so sorry I can't be building support for a working class, network of militias and soviets, and instead providing support and solidarity with an oppressed section of society which is fighting imperialism. I guess I must be anti-gay/anti-women/anti-working class (delete as appropriate) because I support the resistance. Boohooohoooo

6:31 AM  
Blogger voltaires_priest said...

Yes, "building support for a working class" would probably be a better use of your time than "building support" for a theocratic militia.

It may sound a fatuous point. But if you're a socialist, you should be in favour of, you know, socialism.

Assuming you're a socialist, that is.

6:38 AM  
Blogger stroppybird said...

I love the way the term 'resistance' is thrown around. I do wonder at what point certain groups would actually find it to hard even for them to stomach certain views and actions. But hey, as long as they kill US troops they must be good !! They make be reactionary and kill Trade Unionists , women, LGBT people , their own people, but they are 'resisting'.

Sorry but I don't want one repressive regime replaced by another. Is that progress ?

7:41 AM  
Blogger voltaires_priest said...

Well if the "resistance" formed a repressive regime, then people would resist that regime, n'est pas?

That would then give the big-up "anti imperialists" another "resistance" to support, and thus the cycle could continue and they wouldn't even have to do anything inconvenient like change slogans, still less think deeply about geopolitics or the point of their own identity as part of the "left".

So you see, it might be morally bankrupt politics but it's a top game when you get into it...

8:12 AM  
Blogger stroppybird said...


"Well if the "resistance" formed a repressive regime, then people would resist that regime, n'est pas?"

But how would they explain opposing a group they had previously supported to overthrow another regime ?

But do they really give a toss. As you say, 'top game'.

Oh dear, my head is hurting.

8:53 AM  
Blogger voltaires_priest said...

Of course they don't give a toss. In a few months maybe, or a couple of years at most, they'll move on to another "project". After all, they arrived at this one from being obsessed with "the new anti-capitalist movement", an obsession that they've now put on the back burner. And of course they arrived at that from running around calling for a general strike when the last pits were closed in the mid-90s. Which was ten years too late to be making that call, but hey, who was counting...

9:01 AM  
Blogger stroppybird said...

There are still some of the left who actually care about principles and people. Personally if you don't how can you argue for socialism ?

9:05 AM  
Blogger El Tom said...

So what actually happened to WP? even the weekly wokrer doesn't seem to have had anything to say...

10:10 AM  
Blogger voltaires_priest said...

They expelled most of their best members, because those members were part of a "minority" (which seems to have included most of their active membership in Britain) who didn't believe that the world revolution was imminent.

11:34 AM  
Anonymous Clive said...

"But how would they explain opposing a group they had previously supported to overthrow another regime?"

Well it's not *exactly* the same, but the SWP supported Khomeini against Iraq in the latter stages of the Gulf War, only to support Iraq - four years later! - against not only the US but Israel (ie when Saddam launched scuds - which might have contained chemical weapons, in principle) against Israel).

Iraq had not changed. If anything - this was now post the anfal campaign massacring maybe 100,000 Kurds - the regime was even worse. But being 'against imperialism' was enough. I think a real qualitative leap in the SWP's rot must have taken place around this time and this issue.

11:59 AM  
Anonymous boogski said...

Volty said:

It was politically just degenerate. I never thought I would go on an anti-war demo where people would be chanting slogans in support of theocratic militias who progressives ought not simply to be supporting anyway...

Nu-Left? :D

Seriously, I appreciate your honest assessment, Volt. I had a suspicion you'd be disappointed.

6:41 PM  
Anonymous Simon B said...


5:14 AM  

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