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Questions that Need an Answer

Bob Pitt

"THERE can be nothing but praise for the work of the Socialist Workers Party within the [Stop the War] Coalition", Andrew Murray and Lindsey German tell us (‘Why the Stop the War Coalition is as Important as Ever’, Morning Star, August 11).

But the SWP, as is well known, suffers from an ingrained tendency to ultra-left sectarianism.

Its leaders persistently overestimate the level of consciousness among working people and, as a result, put forward policies that have no support outside a militant minority of the class. They advocate extraparliamentary action not as a means of exerting pressure on Parliament, but as a form of "revolutionary" opposition to it. Concentrating on building a "socialist alternative" to Labour, they lack any strategy for a political struggle inside the Labour Party.

They also systematically hype up their own limited successes and refuse to admit to political mistakes.

Given the SWP’s leading role in the Stop the War Coalition, it is surely legitimate to question the impact that its politics had on the effectiveness of the anti-war campaign.

For example, did the Coalition’s emphasis on direct action in response to the outbreak of war offer a perspective for the hundreds of thousands of people, many of them new to political activity, who joined the huge demonstration on February 15? Did the campaign for political strikes against the war represent a serious strategy for work in the trade unions? Did Coalition activities after February 15 concentrate, as they should have done, on maximising the revolt against Blair’s war policy in the Parliamentary Labour Party?

Is it really true that the Coalition "nearly stopped the war", or even that it came "within political inches of forcing British disengagement from the aggression against Iraq", as Andrew and Lindsey state?

And, if these claims are exaggerations, what could the anti-war campaign realistically have hoped to achieve after February 15 and what did the Coalition’s policies contribute towards that?

These are questions that need answering, even at the risk of hurting the feelings of the SWP.

This was published as a letter in the Morning Star,21 August 2003.