Since the bombings, the Socialist Party has been calling for an emergency demonstration to be organised with the clear message: ‘No to terror, no to war, no to racism’.
Such political resolutions have been passed by several unions recently. The Transport and General Union’s recent conference passed a resolution calling for the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq.
Len Hockey, UNISON joint branch secretary, Waltham Forest health branch writes that the following resolution was passed at UNISON Waltham Forest health branch committee at Whipps Cross hospital on 14 July.
“This Branch Committee condemns totally the appalling and despicable act of murder and maiming that took place in London on 7 July. Just as with 9/11 and the Madrid bombs, the target was ordinary working people of all cultures, creeds and denominations.
“Such acts threaten to divide our communities and can help reinforce right-wing press campaigns to scapegoat Muslims for all the ills that flow from the capitalist system such as lack of housing, decent public services, jobs etc.
“Bush and Blair’s war in Iraq, for the profits, power and prestige of capitalism in the region, has so far resulted in the deaths of 100,000 ordinary Iraqis (as well as hundreds of Coalition troops). Our world has become a more unstable and dangerous place to live in as a consequence.
“We oppose threatened attempts at repressive legislation such as identity cards. Measures introduced by Labour In the wake of 9/11 failed to prevent this outrage.
“Most security measures in place are there to protect the elite in society and not ordinary people.
“The fight for world peace is a trade union issue. UNISON should continue to develop its links with Iraqi and Middle Eastern trade unionists and campaigners for the withdrawal of Coalition troops from Iraq across the world.”
Stop the War Coalition’s missed opportunity
Socialist Party members on the Stop the War Coalition (STWC) steering committee moved a resolution at its meeting this week. It called for a “demonstration within the next few weeks/as soon as practically possible to show that the anti-war movement is opposed to terrorism, opposed to the war and occupation and opposed to any racist backlash or erosion of civil liberties in the aftermath of 7 July.”
It was also suggested that the main slogans should be ‘United against terror’ and ‘United against war’ as well as calling for the withdrawal of troops and opposing any racist backlash or erosion of civil liberties.
Despite arguing that anti-war movement faced a new, urgent situation in Britain after the 7 July bombings the Socialist Party’s position was supported by few others on the committee.
Instead, most of the committee’s leading lights, including members of the Socialist Workers Party (the dominant trend in the leadership), the Communist Party and Labour Lefts argued it was not possible to organise a demo at such short notice in the summer period, arguing that the coalition was short of funds. This was despite a £2,000 donation from the PCS union last week.
Although most present accepted that this was not the time for the anti-war movement to be silenced, they felt that protest vigils and public meetings – as well as sympathetic articles in the media – were enough to put across the anti-war movement’s position.
Unfortunately, the vigils and meetings, which have been relatively small and mixed in their aims, will not be enough to send the clearest and strongest message that people are opposed to the war and occupation as well as the atrocity of the terrorist attacks.
The Stop the War leaders’ reluctance reveals, unfortunately, that they have been intimidated to some degree by the onslaught of Blair, the establishment and the media after the London bombings. In the past, STWC leaders have been eager – sometimes too eager – just to call demos to build up the pressure on Blair.
Now, when the situation most demands a swift response they argue it is too difficult to organise a demo. Instead, they are calling a demo this autumn calling for the withdrawal of British troops by Christmas. The Socialist Party supports this demo but would not agree with those who argued that the withdrawal of troops is the only issue the STWC should focus on in the weeks and months ahead.
However, it is also true that some of the STWC leaders – whilst being prepared to condemn the London bombings – are not prepared to sign up to the slogan of “no to terrorism, no to war”. And, rather than stating this openly the SWP and others prefer to skirt around the issue by advancing other slogans and saying that everyone knows the STWC are opposed to terrorism so “we don’t need to state the obvious”.
Yet, there has been a long struggle inside the anti-war movement to ensure that it takes an unequivocal stance against terrorist bombings and it cannot be taken for granted in the current climate that this is ‘obviously’ understood.
Unfortunately, the STWC decision is a missed opportunity, particularly in the absence of opposition inside Parliament, to give a clear lead and intensify the campaign for withdrawal of British troops and end Britain’s role in Iraq.
Campaigning for socialism around the country
Thirty six copies of the socialist were sold at the Trafalgar Square vigil a week after the London suicide bombings. Socialist Party members handed out leaflets showing the need for a socialist alternative to war and terrorism.
Some bought the socialist after they read our leaflet, wanting to find out more.
Andy Tullis, who sold 10 copies of the socialist, said the vigil had a good mood of international solidarity. “I had a good discussion with a South African couple who bought a copy of the paper and said that government repression never solved anything in South Africa, Britain or anywhere else.”
At a packed all-London Socialist Party meeting on 14 July, Socialist Party general secretary Peter Taaffe spoke of the marvellous solidarity of workers immediately after the bombings but also warned of the potential for increased attacks on the Muslim communities.
The fighting fund collection of £1,000 reflected the determination of members and supporters to build on this mood of unity, to challenge the rise in racism where we can and to build a mass movement in the struggle for socialism.
The warm weather brought the crowds into Leicester. After we sold around 30 copies of the socialist on Leicester’s Saturday stall, the Socialist Party went to a rally called by the local council of faiths for people of “all faiths and none” at Victoria Park.
We just let people come up to the stall and talk to us as we gave out our leaflets.
We sold nearly all our papers, three copies of the paper of our Pakistan organisation and all our Socialism Todays, as well as being interviewed by the local paper.
Blair’s outrageous slur on socialists
Peter Taaffe, general secretary of the Socialist Party, sent the following letter to The Guardian which, on 19 July, reported without comment that, at last week’s cabinet meeting, Tony Blair, “likened Islamic extremism to the Trotskyist Militant Tendency”.
Blair’s remarks are an outrageous slur. Militant Tendency, now the Socialist Party, has always condemned terrorism; both the terrorism of individuals and groups both in Britain, Ireland and internationally, and the state terrorism of the US and British governments that is estimated to have resulted in the death of 100,000 civilians in Iraq.
It does not bode well for civil liberties in the wake of 7/7 that the prime minister is prepared to malign socialists who have consistently opposed his neo-liberal, warmongering policies by equating them with terrorists.
To the nightmare of terrorism, the Socialist Party has always counterposed mass working class action as the only means to bring about fundamental change – to bring an end to this capitalist system which increasingly means poverty, inequality and national oppression.
Peter Taaffe, Socialist Party General Secretary
From The Socialist, paper of the Socialist Party, cwi in England and Wales