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Raytheon protest - Defend the protesters but don’t support the action?

1 October 2006

Dear SD,

I notice that you are the only Irish socialist site not to comment on the August Raytheon saga involving leading figures from the Socialist Workers Party.  Does this mean disapproval?  I hope this is the case.  I am a former member of the SWP, and the basic Marxism I was taught when I joined is completely the opposite to the moralistic pseudo –anarchism of the current movement.

Protests against Raytheon are common wherever they have factories and rightly so. They deal in the electronics used in Israeli air force planes which bombed Lebanon as well as manufacturing missiles used by the US in the Iraq war. However one aspect of revolutionary Marxist practice that my SWP training put an emphasis on is that protests should attempt to communicate to the working class through action to empower some recognition that here is an issue to get behind, to collectively support, in service of the class interest of the workers and their ultimate liberation. According to that formula this protest was a disaster.

Some anti-war protests have a ring of sincerity about them as they come out of heartfelt feelings for peace but the Derry protest is just rubbish. The pit stop protestors at Shannon knew they what they were going into and accepted the consequences of their actions. Even at this level socialists should not support this kind of direct action as it is essentially an emotive and morally derived protest against war. The action itself is seen as justification in itself without any position recommending how we can practically take on American imperialism. But at least the Christian moralists are true to their own beliefs. The Raytheon protest was a miserable attempt by a socialist run grouping to ape this style of protest. Consequently their defence will be similar to that of the Pit Stop Ploughshares group. Revolutionary Socialist activists such as Eamon McCann and Colm Bryce will have to defend the primacy and importance of direct action strategies by tiny groups while the strategies that they actually believe in, that of workers’ mass action will take an abstract back seat.  The more that is known of the SWP and their purported programme of mass working class action to stop war the more meaningless and void-like the action becomes.

Surely the protestors know that this type of protest ignites no spark. I hesitated a long time before writing this letter because I didn’t want to run the risk of seeming to side with the right or making the protestors conviction more likely. As a socialist I feel duty bound to oppose their punishment by a state guilty of mass murder in Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon. 

To defend the protestors should not imply that we support the action in any way. We should call for their acquittal but the protestors should realise the mistakenness of this action and the stunt-like appearance  of their completely insincere, desperately opportunistic action. Idiotic political chameleonism. Please let some lessons be learned.


Stephen Holmes 


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