Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 17 January 2003

Stop the War Coalition conference

AS THE US and Britain begin to mass their forces on the borders of Iraq, the Stop the War Coalition held its national conference on 11 January.

PAULA MITCHELL reports on this stage in the development of the anti-war movement in Britain.

Building A Mass Anti-War Movement

"This movement today, not Tony Blair, is speaking for the British people," declared Aslef member Andrew Murray, opening the Stop the War national conference. 800 activists came from local coalitions, political parties, trade unions and peace groups, along with some new young people getting active for the first time.

In a rousing speech, Tony Benn said, "We speak for humanity. This is an argument between the people of the world and the rulers of the world."

Former president of Algeria, Ahmed Ben Bella, who at the age of 86 has just become president of the newly-formed International Campaign Against US Aggression on Iraq, spoke to a standing ovation. He said, "There is terror in the world - the terror of George Bush... The world system keeps 85% of the population in poverty and dependency." He called on the British anti-war movement to "take the smile off Tony Blair's face."

There were cheers as George Galloway MP paid tribute to the train drivers in Motherwell who refused to drive trains with ammunition intended for use against Iraq. The conference agreed to campaign within the trade unions for such decisive action on a mass scale to stop the war.

Socialist Party councillor Dave Nellist called on the recently-elected left trade union leaders to plough at least some of the money they currently give to New Labour into the anti-war movement and to drive on this campaign.

Later in the day, an announcement that soldiers in the north of the country were refusing to go to Iraq was met with huge applause.

Build for action

The conference agreed that the immediate priority is to aim for an unprecedented turnout on the national demo on 15 February. On that day, there will be demos in most European capitals and in many other countries as well. George Galloway said, "It's hard to imagine a more important day in any of our lives so far. Nothing but death can be an excuse to not be in London on February 15th!"

Delegates were also urged to build for action the day war breaks out, for a demo in every village, town and city. Workers were asked to take at least one hour of protest on that day - for "a massive howl of protest and rage, so that the government are more frightened of us than we are of them."

The Socialist Party is organising stalls, leaflets, posters, meetings, local protest actions and stunts all to help build up momentum for the demo on 15 February.

But when war starts we want to see mass occupations, walkouts and strikes at schools, colleges and workplaces all over the country. We are using pledge sheets, ballots and resolutions to help build the confidence of workers and students to take action.

Civil disobedience

On behalf of the Socialist Party, Dave Nellist argued that "demonstrations alone won't shift a capitalist government like New Labour, wedded to the political and economic interests of the US. Only sustained, organised mass civil disobedience can stop a war in progress and force a government to retreat."

Dave gave the example of the campaign against the poll tax, led by the Socialist Party (then called Militant), which was rooted in estates, schools, colleges and workplaces, and was organised through democratic structures locally, regionally and nationally.

To great applause, he also stressed that as well as fighting against this war, "we have to raise an alternative, and be just as determined to build a new world, in my opinion a socialist world".


This was an optimistic and enthusiastic conference. 26 resolutions were debated, plus two composite motions on policy and trade union work. All three resolutions put forward by Socialist Party members were passed.

However, unfortunately it was very difficult for ordinary delegates to intervene in conference discussions unless they were moving resolutions. The Socialist Party will be putting proposals forward on this and other issues to try and ensure future conferences are more inclusive.

To build a successful anti-war movement now will require the development of democratic and open local coalitions, not dominated by any one group, brought together in elected and accountable regional and national bodies.

The newly elected steering committee of the coalition has representation from political parties, trade unions and peace and other campaigns involved in the coalition, plus some individuals.

Clare James from International Socialist Resistance (ISR) was elected (despite a recommendation against her from the officers of the Coalition) because the majority of the conference wanted more young people involved.

Broad coalition

Socialist Party delegates voted against the tiny number of delegates who argued that the Muslim Association should not be asked to co-sponsor activities. The Stop the War Coalition is a broad coalition based on support for three minimal demands: stop the war, no to a racist backlash and defend civil liberties.

The Muslim Association has agreed to these demands and, via the mosques, has mobilised tens of thousands on anti-war demonstrations. This has strengthened the anti-war movement and has also, from the Socialist Party's point of view, given an opportunity to reach a wide layer of Muslims with socialist ideas.

Condemning terrorism

We supported the resolution which "unreservedly condemns terrorist attacks", which was opposed by the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and was defeated at the conference. We think it is a serious mistake for the coalition to take this position.

We understand that it is brutal conditions and imperialist oppression that lead some to turn to terrorist acts in desperation. However, such attacks are completely counterproductive, particularly when they involve the killing of many innocent people - as with the September 11 and Bali attacks.

Surely it is clear by now that September 11, far from undermining US imperialism, made it possible for Bush to dramatically step up US oppression of the neo-colonial world.

If we are to build a mass movement in Britain against the war, it is imperative that anti-war activists condemn attacks which directly harm working-class people, deepen divisions and provide imperialist governments with an excuse to step up repression. The way to fight not only war but the system that perpetrates such injustice is mass action, not individual acts of terror.

Socialist Party members will now be out campaigning to make the 15 February demo a massive success; building in every section of the community for mass action against the war.

Donate to the Socialist Party

Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our special coronavirus appeal.

Please donate here.

All payments are made through a secure server.

My donation


Your message: 


In The Socialist 17 January 2003:

Socialist Party news and analysis

Wage War On Low Pay: Support the firefighters

No To Bush And Blair's War

War On Iraq: The Pressures Grow

Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Gun Crime - Fact And Fiction

Domestic Violence: Don't Let New Labour Renege On Their Pledges

Firefighters Ready For Battle Again

Socialist Party features

The Great British Wage Theft

Stop the War Coalition conference

International socialist news and analysis

Gujarat: Communalists Profit From Hate

Suez 1956: When British Imperialism Hit The Rocks

Socialist Party workplace news

Hackney Trade Unionists Attacked


Home   |   The Socialist 17 January 2003   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  

Related links:

Stop the War Coalition:

triangle15 years since the invasion of Iraq: what we said

triangleDebates on building the anti-Trump movement

triangleThousands march around the country against the bombing of Syria


triangleA new world order - global reconstruction after World War Two

triangleThe Spanish Flu of 1918 and how it "fanned the flames of revolt"

triangleThe Tyneside apprentices' strike during WW2

triangleNo return to the 1930s: World War Two and 'a land fit for heroes'


triangleMick Cotter 21-9-57 to 20-5-20

triangleSocialism the Podcast: 2020 episodes

triangleSocialism the Podcast: 2018 episodes

Socialist Party:

triangleHackney, Waltham Forest & East London Socialist Party branches: Johnson's 'back to school' plan is not safe

triangleBirmingham Socialist Party: Israel-Palestine - recent developments & the future


triangleTrump, coronavirus, capitalism, and the presidential race


triangleIraq - a brutal legacy of imperialist intervention

News and socialist analysis

News and socialist analysis



Black and Asian Covid-19 deaths: an indictment of capitalist inequality



Johnson's reckless 'back to school' plans threaten everyone's safety



Confidence plummets in Tory strategy for Covid-19



Universal Basic Income: not a solution to insecurity and poverty under capitalism



Furlough cut-off could force millions back to unsafe workplaces



Crisis in council services: Labour must fight or stand aside



Rich get handouts - workers get pay cuts



Transport workers and passengers mustn't pay the price



Pandemic shortages caused by capitalist market - socialist planning is the alternative



Tories put profit before lives - unions must stand firm on workplace safety



Stay alert to bosses putting profit before safety



Furlough scheme extended - workers need 100% of wages



Dispatches from the front: bosses prepare fresh attacks on NHS


Welsh Government

Social partnership is an attempt to shackle trade unions and prevent industrial action



Homeless left on streets during pandemic

triangleMore News and socialist analysis articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777


Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 079 8202 1969

East Mids: 077 3797 8057

London: 07748 534 891

North East: 078 4114 4890

North West 079 5437 6096

South West: 077 5979 6478

Southern: 078 3368 1910

Wales: 079 3539 1947

West Mids: 024 7655 5620

Yorkshire: 077 0671 0041



Alphabetical listing

May 2020

April 2020

March 2020

February 2020

January 2020