Three dates already dominate the calendar for the coming year—the 19 March international day of demonstrations against the occupation of Iraq, the 2-9 July protest at the G8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, and the general election which is being widely reported as planned for May.
In introducing the Socialist Workers Party’s annual conference last weekend, Alex Callinicos explained that the domination of Iraq by the US was the “key issue on the world stage” and had created “a fracture down into the depths of British society”.
The European Social Forum held in London in October, revulsion at the killings in Fallujah and the growth of the campaign among soldiers’ families for the withdrawal of British troops from Iraq had given a further boost to the Stop the War Coalition.
The coalition was already the biggest, most sustained campaign which had “combined mass mobilising power and anti-imperialist politics” in British history.
In the discussion which followed Louise from Leeds University reinforced this point. She reported on the success of a 200- strong Stop the War meeting on campus, which was built in association with the Palestine and Islamic societies.
A delegate from Lewisham, south east London, said activists in the area were planning to follow up a 600-strong meeting with Tony Benn and John Rees with further meetings in Goldsmiths University, Bromley and other areas to build the 19 March action.
Alex did, however, warn that the level of class struggle in Britain had to rise to the level of radicalisation round the war or there was a danger the radicalisation would not sustain itself.
The “awkward squad” of trade union leaders had been elected on a platform of opposition to New Labour but were, in the main, working with Blair.
This was a theme developed by John Rees, who argued that the “primary obstacle the whole movement confronts is that of Labourism”.
He argued that the deep radicalisation round the issue of war and in opposition to neo-liberalism came at a time when overall the left is weaker than 20 or 30 years ago. The need for Respect flowed from “a rising curve in the movement, a deep radicalisation, a significant weakening in support for Labour and the weakness of the left”.
Jess reported on how Leicester Respect had tapped into significant local networks to achieve the 12.5 percent vote polled in last July’s parliamentary by-election.
Maxine from Sheffield explained how activists in the city planned to build the 19 March protest by holding meetings in community centres, mosques, schools and local areas.
Ger from Birmingham set a target of 12 coaches for 19 March from the Sparkbrook constituency alone.
In the build-up to the march Respect would have access to networks “we’ve never accessed before”, he said.
Locally campaigners were planning a series of one to one meetings between the local Respect candidate Salma Yaqoob and those considering voting Respect.
In a session on building the anti-war movement Lindsey German pointed out that in addition to the 19 March international protests the Stop the War Coalition was calling a “day of disobedience” on 15 February.
Blair had failed to draw a line under the Iraq war. Now he is aping Bush by planning to fight an election centred on justifying “the war on terror”.
The 19 March demonstration had to be built with meetings in every street, school, college and workplace.
Introducing a session on how the Socialist Workers Party fitted into all this, Martin Smith explained that the SWP had become a home for people in the wider movement.
We now need to put some imagination into how we build our forums and sell Socialist Worker. That requires planning and discussion at district committees and weekly local branches.
Michael Bradley pointed out that over 500 copies of Socialist Worker had been sold on the PCS picket lines on 5 November.
The key now is to help forge those paper buyers into a network of resistance by turning the one- off sales into regular sales, inside and outside civil service offices.
Speaker after speaker in the discussion talked of the need to punish Blair on the streets and at the polls while at the same time developing resistance to New Labour on the domestic front. They described how the war in Iraq impacts into every social and economic issue.
The Socialist Workers Party and Socialist Worker have played a pivotal role in every front of resistance.
The opportunity now exists to increase the size of the party and sales of the paper.
Over 100 delegates contributed their ideas, suggestions and criticisms to the discussion.
Delegates also elected the leading bodies of the party. The resolutions passed are available online. Go to www.swp.org.uk