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Anti-war meeting embraces Celebrity Big Brother

9 November 2006

Kevin Keating

The Irish anti-war / SWP meeting in Dublin on November 4th has been overshadowed by the internet debate about the presence of a Hizbollah speaker.

In fact the both the meeting and the internet comments tell us more than we want to know about the state of the socialist movement in Ireland.

First the internet row.  The Marxist position on imperialist wars, developed through the analysis of countless conflicts, is that we stand for the defeat of the imperialist forces and we defend the right of local populations to resist.  That defence is unconditional. It does not require that the regime involved be of any particular political hue or that we approve of its strategy or that it meet any particular preconditions. 

It is evident from the indymedia thread carrying the comments that the majority of contributors, including the socialists, are ignorant of this position and prefer liberal moralising to Marxism, with pride of place going to the reactionary economism of the Socialist party.

In the babble the original meeting has been lost.  This is a pity, because it deserves condemnation.  From a socialist perspective the task of Richard Boyd-Barrett was clear.  He should have been offering a socialist alternative, not only to Hizbollah, but to the populism of Galloway and the liberalism of the U.S. speaker. That didn’t happen. Contradictory statements went unnoticed in the obvious desire to cobble together some sort of electoral pact unburdened by the slightest element of principle. The U.S. speaker Glenda Cimino who could not bring herself to break from the Democrats in what she termed the most important U.S. election since world war II declared  “ its the last chance for the democrats”  Boyd Barret applauded this  nonsense. Declarations on the anti imperialist nature of the IAWM sat alongside support for Roger Cole and  PANA’s  position of neutrality to imperialist wars. One leading member of the SWP, Brid Smith, even suggested that the recitation of the rosary during a stand-off  between the gardai and the campaign against Shell in Mayo was somehow a refutation of islamophobia???

If the word socialism was mentioned I missed it.  That because the meeting wasn’t about socialism.  It was about an entertaining  afternoon  out and the chance to prepare a base for the SWP’s opportunist election coalition.  Their main critics, the Socialist party, had the same sort of celeb bash in Belfast around the dubious figure of Tommy Sheridan.

There was an opportunity for the left at this meeting. An opportunity to discuss and come to some conclusion about the failure of  its current anti- war strategy. Glaring questions which the war on Lebanon and subsequent victory of the Lebanese resistance brought into sharp relief could have been part of the debate at the meeting, such as: how did the Lebanese left, which had a strong base among the workers and peasants of South Lebanon, become irrelevant?    The crisis of the anti-war movement which failed to mount any significant mobilisation in Europe or the U. S. while Israel destroyed Lebanon’s infrastructure could also have been addressed. Instead we got a bizarre discussion in which the SWP  and the speakers from both platform floor demonstrated why their own alleged leftism and commitment to socialism is bogus and irrelevant.

The supporters of the Critique magazine in Britain argue that the existing left organisations are so dishonest and corrupt that a new movement will have to arise from activists outside their ranks.  The argument is certainly much too extreme, but its starting to sound a great deal more plausible. 


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