SWP block Stop the War support for St Athans campaign

The campaign to stop the school of death at St Athan received a minor setback last night when SWP members and supporters ensured Cardiff Stop The War Coalition rejected our resolution for the STW conference.

The resolution is already on the conference agenda and is supported by the FE sector of Wales UCU (see below), but support from Cardiff STW would clearly have increased its chances of success.

Last night’s meeting indicated, however, that both the SWP and its partners in the UK leadership of STW, the CPB (Communist Party of Britain), will oppose the coalition taking up the fight against the St Athan super-academy.

This may surprise some people. After all, the proposed school of death, besides being an obscenity in itself, will be one of the world’s prime sites for training armed forces for the “War on Terror” which it is STW’s stated mission to oppose.

However, SWP speakers claimed that backing the St Athan campaign could threaten the wide support the coalition enjoys.

It is an argument which, in different forms, we have heard from the SWP for over thirty years: in their view you cannot build a mass campaign if you threaten the central ideas that legitimate capitalist rule: the need for immigration controls, for example, or the illusion that ‘our boys and girls’ in the armed forces are essentially a benevolent force acting in our interests who are occasionally led into an unwise war.

Consequently, while seven years of STW have eroded confidence in the Labour government and put pressure on them to withdraw forces form Iraq, the coalition has failed to alter perceptions of British imperialism and its military servants.

During that time, at the behest of the SWP, the supposed clear focus of STW has changed several times, from a campaign against war in Afghanistan, to a campaign against war in Iraq, and now a catch-all campaign against the War on Terror. In order to keep its clear focus its leaders refused to carry out a decision of the 2nd People’s Assembly – motivated by a Cardiff PR member- to set up anticapitalist social forums.  At the same time the STW website had a link to the SWP’s anticapitalist front Globalise Resistance.  The need for a clear  focus, moreover, has not prevented the coalition adding the fight for a free Palestine to its aims, nor the fight against a racist backlash from the Iraq war, nor the fight for civil liberties – an issue which covers a multitude of struggles, many of them potentially divisive.

PR are not opposed to STW taking on these issues. But then why not take on the massive issue of St Athan which is inextricably linked both to the prosecution of future invasions, the repression of dissent and the inflammation of racism?

PR are not interested in token protest or building small sectarian campaigns. We want to see a mass Stop The War movement, but not one whose hands are tied by the fear of taking on the hard arguments.

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9 Responses to SWP block Stop the War support for St Athans campaign

  1. rob says:

    Oh for goodness sake would you expect a darts club to organise a snooker tournament?
    STW organises against the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan and the threatened invasion of Iran . We want draw in the broadest group of people and forces possible for that and that ,I’m afraid, might include people who might actually not be opposed to St Athans . It might even include people who don’t agree with Permanent Revolution.
    We need to reach out to include more than just the tiny far-left.
    There is already a large and active campaign on St Athans and anyone concerned should get behind that .

  2. rob says:

    Sorry for the second post but I run out of time in the library.

    It this stuff about “swp and supporters” ensuring your motion was defeated that I have misgivings about .

    The meeting had a long and wide ranging discussion after which a vote was taken and the motion was voted down . There was a small number of swp members there and a similar number of PR members . There were as many ‘independents’ there , most of which would object quite strongly to being called swp supporters or PR supporters.
    As far as I’m concerned the meeting carried out a democratic decision.

    I hope that in forthcoming Stop the War meetings we spend as much time discussing how to campaign against the occupation of Iraq as we have about St. Athans in previous meetings.

  3. permanentrevolution says:

    Rob, with the greatest respect, I don’t think you’ve read the article, which deals with the question of why St Athan is absolutely a matter of concern for STW. As for putting people off – the resolution was passed without opposition in FESC. It has actually generated interest in a flagging campaign and can provide a focus for it for the coming years – and why should this be at the expense of Iraq and Iran?
    The vast majority of active STW supporters will undoubtedly support the campaign against St Athan – once they know about it, which they probably would not were we not taking a resolution to conference. The truth, the leaders of STW are more worried about what the capitalist media will say if we’re seen as being against the “defence of the country”. If so, bring on the debate! Let’s throw the questions back at them – in what way will St Athan contribute to the safety of workers and students? The armed forces are being prepared for future offensive wars and future repression of dissent, not an invasion of Britain!
    War after war will follow if we don’t tackle head-on the question of the armed forces and what they are for. That should absolutely be the priority of Stop the War and any genuine revolutionary socialist should be fighting for it.
    On the question of who was at the meeting etc etc, we do not have access to the SWP’s membership lists, but people did give their affiliations at the start of the meeting and our report was absolutely correct in saying that it was SWP opposition to the motion which prevented it being passed. For independent (non PR) corroboration of this, check out the St Athan discussion on Urban 75.

  4. rob says:

    Of course the St.Athans academy is a bad thing and I’m sure many members of Stop the War are against it but Stop the War is there to CAMPAIGN AGAINST THE WAR and build the BROADEST possible opposition to it .A campaign against the military academy ALREADY EXISTS (sorry about the capitals but I feel like I’m banging my head up against a brick wall ).

    Nobody is saying St.Athans is a good thing . It’s just not stop the war’s job to lead the campaign . Apparrently a large campign already exists and good luck to it .

    What is your problem with swp being opposed to your motion ?We have a right to our views as you do to yours .

    For the record there were 4 swp members at the meeting and 3 PR . The vote was 6 for your resolution and 7 against .

    As you should know ,if you were there , there was a very long discussion where all points of view were aired and a vote was taken.

    If you’re implying something underhand took place why don’t you come out and say so.

  5. permanentrevolution says:

    Our report said that SWP members and supporters ensured the resolution was not passed. Our report was therefore true. Apart from a member of the CPB (the SWP’s main STW partner), everybody who voted against the resolution was either a member or a close associate of the SWP. Is that a healthy state of affairs for a supposedly ‘broad’ coalition?

    You really have missed the point about why STW should take on the St Athan campaign. Not only would this vastly raise the profile of the campaign (which barely exists beyond Cardiff at the moment) but it also would make the link between the rash of invasions and the preparation for these. When STW comes off the fence over the matter of “defence” spending, we can at last begin to break the vast illusion that the UK armed forces are serving our interests. Until that happens Stop the War will remain nothing more than a liberal campaign doing nothing to advance us towards socialism.

    We welcome further comments but rest our case and refer readers to our main website for further explanation of our positions on war and imperialism.

  6. rob says:

    No,it’s not healthy that the meeting was so lined up.

    And it will stay that way as long as the meetings are disrupted by PR pushing its pet project and leaving little time to discuss how to organise actual activites against the war and to build a vibrant campaigning STW not just open to the usual set of Cardiff lefties.

    I did hope that Permanent Revolution had left ultra-leftism and petty sectarianism behind in Workers Power but sadly that appears not to be the case.

    By the way it is not the job of STW “to advance us towards socialism”.
    It’s a united front campaign aginst the war not a revolutionary party.

  7. permanentrevolution says:

    Thanks, Rob, for the admirable clarity of your last paragraph. You’ve managed to put the difference between the politics of PR and the politics of the SWP in a nutshell. Yes, we do believe STW, and all united front campaigns, should advance us, at least in some small way, towards socialism; that they should open people’s eyes to the nature of the state, that they should encourage workers and students, at least in some small way, to take matters into their own hands, and that they should be a living, breathing example of a genuine, direct democracy.

    Of course, we cannot always achieve this in united fronts, and they are not a condition for joining them, but it is what we aspire to.

    As regards STW, the bottom line is opposition to the war in Iraq. That is why we continue to support STW and have played a large part in building it locally, including in 2003 initiating the largest functioning area group in Roath.

    However, such a campaign provides us with a massive opportunity to go beyond criticising this or that action by our rulers, to begin to question the legitimacy of that rule itself. We have prioritised the St Athan issue because we believe it is an issue which will encourage people to question in whose interests the military establishment acts: an important step towards the ultimate question of ‘who rules?’ and the ending of wars of invasion.

    The SWP, of course, makes propaganda for socialism. But it does so within the pages of Socialist Worker, while building campaigns which actually contribute to the great consensus behind the rule of parliament, the jurisdiction of the courts, and the unchallengeable power of the armed forces.

    We don’t claim any great originality for our method. It is the method of the Bolsheviks, further refined and codified by Trotsky in the Transitional Programme. It is a method which links the partial struggles of here and now with our ultimate aim of socialist revolution. It is also a method which does not require us to hide our politics, which is why we enjoy a healthy respect from those we work alongside.

  8. rob says:

    I haven’t got time for this but I’m glad you continue to support Stop the War.

    Do you mind if I ask why you don’t publish comments from a friend of mine pointing out that in the past Workers Power (now PR) argued for the closing down of Cardiff Stop the War?

  9. permanentrevolution says:

    Our comments facility exists for the purpose of constructive dialogue. We will not publish comments which involve rumour, hearsay, defamation or the violation of personal security.
    Just to clarify, Workers Power are not now PR – PR was formed when WP expelled a minority critical of its catastrophist perspectives.

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