OVER THE last six months Wales has seen some of the biggest demonstrations and meetings around the war since the miners' strike of 1984. How those who oppose imperialism build a political challenge to New Labour occupies the minds of many activists. Clearly, there needs to be an effective socialist alternative built to challenge New Labour in Wales. The talk of a radical Welsh Labour Party does not match reality. Only two Welsh Labour MPs voted to oppose foundation hospitals in parliament. And any idea that somehow Wales is immune to the BNP is dangerous - look at what happened in Wrexham. The stakes are very high.
The spirit of internationalism shown in the anti-war movement needs to be central. We need to see the common interests between those fighting war, privatisation and racism regardless of what country they happen to live in. The nationalism of Plaid Cymru does not, in my opinion, offer the sort of alternative required.
An interesting development is the call by John Marek, assembly member for Wrexham, who was kicked out of the Labour Party, for the left to look at the possibility of building some common platform to stand in elections. Exactly what sort of alternative this is needs to be discussed, but it is a very welcome move.
National Chair, Socialist Alliance (personal capacity)
TONY BLAIR is squirming over the absence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. This has been greatly intensified by the death of David Kelly. There are some in the Labour Party and the trade unions who argue this crisis gives us the opportunity to reclaim Labour. I don't believe this is the case. If Blair goes, it will be a massive defeat for Blairism. But replacing him with Gordon Brown will not change the imperialist, neo-liberal agenda pursued by the government.
While socialists should work with Labour Party members who oppose New Labour's programme, our main task is not to try and reclaim Labour but build an alternative to it. Taking advantage of the huge possibilities opening up before us requires two things.
Firstly, we must build on what we have already achieved in the Socialist Alliance. In a short time we have established a good basis of support. We stood in 92 seats at the last general election and in many seats in the last two rounds of council elections. The first Socialist Alliance victory in Preston shows a socialist anti-war campaigner can be electorally successful. But we must also go beyond elections and fight day to day on all the issues that affect people. That means building Socialist Alliance branches that draw together trade unionists, anti-racists and anti-war campaigners to a common organisation.
Secondly, while building the Socialist Alliance, we need to reach out to others who are not yet convinced the alliance offers a substantial enough challenge to New Labour. In the unions many are questioning the traditional link to Labour. Millions were radicalised during the war. A new generation of young people has entered political activity. Socialists must pay particular attention to those oppressed groups, especially the Muslim community, that have born the brunt of this government's agenda. We have to build the Socialist Alliance and link up with others to create the broadest possible socialist challenge for the European and Greater London Assembly elections next year, and the general election a year later.
AS A part of Redbridge Against the War, I helped organise public meetings, a teach-in, petitioning and street protests. A group of about ten activists met up every week to discuss strategy and organise. Everyone was incensed by Mike Gapes's continued support for the war. His constituency, South Ilford, is largely Muslim and many local Muslim groups are angry with him backing war.
Just after the war started we called a march from Ilford to Barking but the police banned it. Everyone wanted to march, so off we went. After about ten minutes the police arrested me. The demo grew and about 200 picketed the police station demanding my release. I came out to chants of 'Fiona for MP'. This incident led the group into discussions about challenging New Labour at the next elections. We agreed we would like to launch a Socialist Alliance group in the area.
I am also a member of the RMT, which has just decided to open up its political fund to parties other than New Labour. Most people at work think it's good idea to challenge New Labour locally. This means if the Socialist Alliance stands candidates in Redbridge we can ask the local RMT branch for funding and support.