So have there been any signs of the anti-war left taking on board Johann Hari’s appeal for them to turn to a pro-democracy movement for Iraq? Well, not much evidence of a shift in emphasis from what I can see.
Surf around any of the anti-war left message boards and websites such as Urban 75 or Indymedia and you will find little sign of any change – if anything the anti-Americanism has hardened and the lack of interest in freeing Iraq from fascism all too evident.
I find the psychology of this interesting. These people will deny they have taken sides in this war but they are lapping up Al-Jazeera coverage and gleefully posting pictures of US POW’s. There may be no comment of delight to accompany the photos but it says everything that the news being posted in excitement is that of allied casualties and setbacks along with silly suggestions of war crimes being committed by Tony Blair.
There may only be a nutcase minority prepared to march under the slogan ‘Victory to Iraq’ but sadly the ‘nasty wing’ of the anti-war movement is much more visible now that Middle England appears to have abandoned them.
Even the Stop the War Coalition didn’t claim more than 400,000 people on their demo on Saturday, while others put the figure at closer to 100,000. Either way no-one denies that the demo was much smaller than the February 15 affair. That must have been very disappointing for the activists and on Urban 75 some lamented the decline in numbers and change in mood.
But never mind, replied one ‘comrade’ things can change: “I see what your saying, but i reckon that its still early, there is still a lot of highs and lows to come in the weeks and months ahead… as the death and damage being done starts to seep out through the media i reckon there will be a more militant mood amongst all anti-war protesters, even those just passsing through…
So death and damage will be a high point?
I don’t want to demonise the anti-war position – I know full well that there are many decent people who are opposed to this war for serious reasons. But the fact is that when we talk about an anti-war movement there is no doubt that we are now talking about the hardcore. The problem with reasoned critics is that they rarely organise themselves. Let’s face it the Trotskyite leadership of the Stop the War Coalition is not going to face a challenge to their authority from Charles Kennedy or Robin Cook are they?
Sadly the result will be that the Trots will have the ear of the students and schoolkids and the next generation of young activists will cut their teeth in a brand of politics that all those on the genuine left know leads ultimately to cynicism and despair – the enemies of progressive politics.
We are already having to deal with the result of Socialist Workers Party dominance of the radical left. The attitude to Iraq and Israel and a whole host of other issues shows that the SWP have been able to replace the old Communist Party as the hegemonic force on the far left with an influence that stretches well beyond their own membership.
Tony Benn used to call the old CP the ‘University of the left’, if the SWP have now taken on that role, and I think that they have, then sadly the radical left will continue to be dominated by the politics of nihilism for another generation.
Is there a way of halting this depressing process? The only one is to create an alternative movement of an internationalist and progressive democratic left. But the problem is that the Labour Party has long since killed off what remained of a genuine left activism in Britain. It has left the field clear to the Trots and presented itself as merely an organiser of local and national managers. Because the Trots don’t pose a real threat to New Labour’s dominance of the party anymore, the leadership don’t see to care about the issue.
The result is if you are a student or a young trade unionist and you want to talk politics and get involved in campaigns there is basically no-one else but the Trotskyite left around.
The left alternative to nihilism needs to recapture its spirit of campaigning, of open debate and deal once again with that unfashionable phrase – activism. The non-Trot left must tackle head on the arguments, undercut the dominance of the ultra-left and be passionate about its politics.
In other words, Tough on Trots, Tough on the cause of Trots.