11 August 2003


The row over the role of the Socialist Workers’ Party and other Leninist revolutionary defeatists in the Stop the War Coalition (not quite started here) rumbles on. In the wake of Mike Marqusee’s critical piece on the SWP for Signs of the Times (excerpted on this weblog below and run in full here), Nick Cohen ran a – typically robust – rant in the New Statesman appropriating Marqusee as a friend of the pro-war left, which (understandably) got up Marqusee’s nose.

Now the Stop the War crew has piled in. In an article in today’s Morning Star, the chair of the Stop the War Coalition, Communist Party of Britain ideologue Andrew Murray, and its convenor, SWP appartchik Lindsey German, take issue with Cohen and Marqusee:

“The anti-war movement, centred on the Stop the War Coalition… has helped awaken the broadest sections of the country not only to a determination to secure a world peace but also to a deeper sense of social justice and the limitations of democracy as it is presently practised here. But there are some of the left who just cannot stand it. They include those like Nick Cohen, John Lloyd and David Aaronovitch who supported this war… and a few of those who opposed the war, but appear personally embittered by one thing or another. The latter seems to be the inspiration of Mike Marqusee’s return to the political arena with a widely circulated attack on the Coalition after nearly a year during which he has played no part in the anti-war movement’s work. They are a marginal minority on the left, amplified, however, by the willingness of the New Statesman, in particular, to give ample space for their campaign to be prosecuted . . .

“On August 30 [the STWC] is convening a representative People’s Assembly to address the weapons of mass destruction controversy and the defects in our democracy it exposes – an initiative agreed some time ago, which makes nonsense of Marqusee’s silly allegation that the Coalition is “keeping quiet” about the issue…”

Am I alone in detecting a note of desperation and paranoia here? Marqusee’s critique of the SWP (and by extension of Leninist manipulation of the anti-war movement) is dismissed as “silly”, but he speaks for a large swathe of anti-war opinion in his antipathy to the SWP’s typical modus operandi – and German and Murray do not address his substantive arguments. Moreover, the fact that the New Statesman has run two pieces on the same theme (before Cohen, the comedian Mark Thomas got in on the act not very effectively) indicates nothing more than that there is a real argument going on about what the left did about the war and what it should do now. (For god’s sake, the real problem is that the NS has been inflicting John Pilger and John Kampfner on us ad nauseam in recent months.)

The “marginal minority” dismissed by German and Murray isn’t marginal and isn’t a minority. The chances of the “People’s Assembly” (for which click here) – modelled on the notorious People’s Convention staged by the CP in 1941 to rally support for Stalin’s alliance with Hitler at a critical stage of the second world war (see below) – being “representative” are close to zero: it will almost certainly be packed by SWP and CPB hacks representing only themselves. It is absolutely certain that it will not ask the critical question that confronts the left today: why did we let the Leninists screw it up yet again?

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