Tactics to build a movement, not a shopping list of correct demands
The discussion about how to build a mass anti-war movement on Ukraine should not depend on this level of argument involving principles and political analyses about history and the current invasion. No, building a movement here is about tactics. How do we mobilise the biggest number of people so that we have an audience where we can put forward our respective arguments about the nature of Putin’s Russia or the role of NATO? All those fine analyses will have no impact outside a narrow group of lefties if we are unable to build a mass audience. More importantly the left will fail in its duty to defend the interests of working people in Ukraine, Russia and elsewhere. We will end of doing little to stop the bombing and needless killing of both the Ukrainian people and young Russian conscripts.
Unfortunately today the movement around Ukraine is much weaker than in many other countries and is divided between the historic leadership of the anti-war movement, the Stop the War coalition (STW) and the Ukraine Solidarity Campaign (USC). STW is still supported and respected by many activists even if its campaigning on Syria was criticised by some of the left for avoiding clearly calling out Russia’s reactionary role there. The USC has been supported by other parts of the left and has succeeded in mobilising the Ukrainian community quite effectively. Its leadership includes socialist activists from Ukraine. …
At the same time there are tens of thousands of British people who have mobilised in support of the Ukrainian people by organising humanitarian and medical aid. Firefighters have brought fire engines and equipment to Ukraine. Dock unions have blocked Russian tankers. There is huge sympathy for the Ukrainian people and revulsion about the actions of Putin’s regime. Some people – including soldiers – like others across Europe have gone across to Ukraine to work in medical support or to fight. We do not think volunteering to fight is the right thing to do but again it expresses the popular anger at what is happening.
So why don’t the STW and USC and other forces get together to organise mass demonstrations and actions on a few simple demands we can all agree on such as:
- Russian troops out now
- Stop the war
- All refugees welcome
Stop the War’s wrong tactics on building the campaign
The historical leadership of anti-war campaigning, STW insists that these sort of broad slogans are not sufficient. They argue that slogans on NATO and war mongering have to be included in any slogans for a demonstration. They say it does not hold our government or the Labour leadership to account for its ‘warmongering’ and support of NATO. It does not want to organise a demonstration where somebody like Keir Starmer could feel he could participate. What is the result? Up to now there have been separate mobilisations by STW which has brought together its traditional base on the left and the USC which has organised a part of the left and the Ukrainian community. Overall the size of the demonstrations is much smaller than in other countries.
The paradox for STW is that their previous great success, the anti-Iraq war movement was not conceived in this narrow manner. Platforms included pro-NATO Liberals, pacifists and religious leaders. The slogans on the poster aimed to include the broadest number of people and not exclude them by demanding agreement about the nature of the war or the regimes involved. …
Our priority is how to mobilise the majority of people in Britain who recognize the reactionary nature of Putin so that we can build the biggest possible movement in solidarity with Ukraine. Secondly we need to organise the biggest possible audience for voices from Ukraine. Once we have achieved that we can then talk to them about the reactionary nature of NATO. The insistence of STW on giving almost equal billing to stuff about NATO and withdrawal of Russian troops is a block to building a mass movement against Putin. It restricts the movement to the tiny minority who already agree that NATO is responsible for millions of deaths.
It also excludes Ukrainian voices. …
Anti*Capitalist Resistance has a clear position on NATO published on our website so we obviously think it is important to expose the utterly reactionary nature of the ‘Nakedly Aggressive Terror Organisation’. We should call for the dissolution of NATO in our own leaflets and articles and defend the right of other currents to put forward their own views. But that is different to building a mass campaign in solidarity with Ukraine.
A mass campaign has to bring together the majority already convinced of the reactionary nature of Putin, the Ukrainian community in Britain, other communities in Britain from eastern Europe and the relatively small number of people who understand the real nature and role of NATO but are also willing to listen to voices from Ukraine and try to understand their fears and concerns. …
The primary slogan of the campaign should be ‘Russian troops out now!’, a slogan around which the broadest possible forces opposed to Putin’s war can unite. Then you can start to talk to them about NATO, western hypocrisy over Yemen and Palestine etc. But if opposition to NATO is one of the major strands of the campaign then all those people having, at best, illusions in NATO simply won’t participate in the solidarity movement. Your ability to engage with them in discussions about NATO is reduced to zero. You also have little chance of getting them to hear the views of left-wing forces from Ukraine and Eastern Europe….
This Saturday 26 March the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has called a demonstration for 2pm to 5pm from Park Lane to Trafalgar square. It is an extremely broad based call, simply saying we in London are in solidarity with the Ukrainian people, we stand with Ukraine….. This could mobilise a good number of people, even if Sadiq Khan defends NATO along with the Labour leadership. STW should participate and make a call to support it. The Anti*Capitalist Resistance will be present as part of the labour movement and left bloc.
Sign up to the appeal for a more united Ukrainian campaign
Fortunately a number of people on the left who are frustrated at the division of the movement on Ukraine have organised an appeal to bring about such a wider mobilisation. Anti*Capitalist Resistance supports this appeal and urges everyone to sign here.
No war on Ukraine
“Massive demonstrations against war and in solidarity with the Ukrainian people all over Europe have not so far been matched in the UK, where protests have been small and often divided. We appeal to the entire Labour and trade union movement, pacifists, faith leaders, humanitarians, antiwar activists, those in solidarity with the Ukrainian people and all right-minded internationalists to build the broadest possible movement around three central demands:
- Russian troops out of Ukraine!
- No to war!
- Refugees welcome here!
This article is extracts from the Anti-Capitalist Resistance website at https://anticapitalistresistance.org/what-sort-of-antiwar-movement-do-we-need-today/