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Reply to Article by Andrew Murray and Lindsey German

Mike Marqusee

This was published in the Morning Star, 14 August 2003.

I’M SORRY to see Andrew Murray and Lindsey German, writing as officers of the Stop the War Coalition (Morning Star, 11 August), getting bogged down in a personal attack on myself. With the Hutton inquiry underway, the WMD still missing and the occupation growing ever more bloody, this is precisely what the movement does not need. But since I have been misrepresented, I must reply.

Their allegation that in "nearly a year" I have "played no part in the anti-war movement’s work" is baseless. It’s true that since last September’s mass demonstration I have not been active on the Stop the War national steering committee – but this is hardly the whole of the anti-war movement. In February I represented the STWC in the run-up to and at the huge demonstration in New York (and wrote a report on those activities for the STWC steering committee). In late March-early April, I organised the Americans Speak Out Against the War tour – including workplace, college and public anti-war meetings and exposure in the media. I’ve continued to speak at anti-war teach-ins and meetings, write anti-war articles, and take part, along with so many others, in demos and other protest activities. I’ve just returned from the USA where I spoke at anti-war meetings and met with anti-war activists.

Nor can anything I have written be honestly described as an "attack on the Stop the War Coalition". For the full text of the remarks to which Andrew and Lindsey refer, see www.signsofthetimes.org.uk. Readers will note that this is a considered piece about the role of the SWP and the problem of sectarianism. I acknowledge the work done by the SWP in building the Coalition but do go on to make very serious criticisms of them – criticisms no harsher than ones levelled at the SWP by Andrew Murray and others in the Morning Star in the past. Out of 2,500 words in this piece some 175 touch on the SWP’s role in the Coalition.

Lumping me in with Nick Cohen and David Aaronovitch is the kind of dubious sleight-of-hand frequently practised by Cohen and Aaronovitch themselves – masters of the guilt by association technique. In a letter published in the New Statesman I strongly criticised Nick Cohen’s misrepresentations of the anti-war movement and his support for an atrocious imperial war. To insinuate that I am part of some kind of "campaign" against the Coalition waged via the New Statesman is preposterous.

The allegation that I am "personally embittered" and that this was the "inspiration" for my remarks is shoddy stuff. Casting aspersions on critic’s motives should be left to the Blairites. It is certainly true that I have been appalled by the SWP’s misconduct within the Socialist Alliance, and have well-grounded reasons for objecting to its modus operandi in other campaigns.

Contrary to Andrew and Lindsey’s assertion, nowhere have I accused the STWC of "keeping quiet" about anything. I do, however, have criticisms of some things done and some not done by the Stop the War Coalition. In this I am hardly alone among anti-war activists, nor does it make me an enemy of the Coalition. Our anti-war movement faces serious challenges. Personal sideswipes won’t answer genuine concerns.

Explanatory Note: In an article in the Morning Star (11 August 2003), Andrew Murray and Lindsey German, writing as chair and convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, reply to some of Nick Cohen’s criticisms in the New Statesman. In the course of a wide-ranging defence of the Coalition, they make the following remarks about me:

"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 Peoples 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."