A - I n f o s
a multi-lingual news service by, for, and about anarchists **

News in all languages
Last 40 posts (Homepage) Last two weeks' posts

The last 100 posts, according to language
Castellano_ Català_ Deutsch_ Nederlands_ English_ Français_ Italiano_ Polski_ Português_ Russkyi_ Suomi_ Svenska_ Türkçe_ The.Supplement
First few lines of all posts of last 24 hours || of past 30 days | of 2002 | of 2003

Syndication Of A-Infos - including RDF | How to Syndicate A-Infos
Subscribe to the a-infos newsgroups
{Info on A-Infos}

(en) Red & Black Revolution #7 - The IAWM's dismal leadership" A critique of the politics of Trotskyism by Dec McCarthy

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Fri, 19 Dec 2003 08:08:32 +0100 (CET)

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E
News about and of interest to anarchists
http://ainfos.ca/ http://ainfos.ca/index24.html

A character in Dermot Healy's novel Sudden Times remarks "Politics makes me
dizzy. They're cat. If you're paranoid about government then the psyche is
unsettled. You're not well. Next thing is you're standing in Saint Columba's in your
pyjamas talking to some bollocks about the phallus and chewing something to
bring you down. No sir. No way." Well after months of regularly attending the
Irish Anti-War Movement's marches and particularly after months of listening to
the speeches of the leading lights of the IAWM, I can sympathise with these
sentiments. My head is buzzing with cant and rhetoric and I have that dejected
feeling you get when you know you have just lost a chance that won't be coming
around again for a long time.

Now credit should be given where credit is due. The IAWM did invaluable work in
mobilising people. They played a central role building a very large antiwar
movement. They undertook all those necessary but thankless tasks that make any
social movement happen - postering, distributing leaflets, setting up local
branches, holding meetings and the like. They called for marches and faithfully
shunted their megaphones, placards and banners to the demos. They created a
media profile for the anti-war movement and Richard Boyd Barrett in particular
made a very good fist of making the anti-war position clear and coherent on the
national airwaves. Groups such as writers against the war produced with
incredible speed an anthology of writings against the war. Local groups like the
Fairview anti-war group, and I'm sure many local groups that I do not know about,
excelled themselves in organising anti-war activity in their area. Finally and most
importantly, the IAWM can claim with considerable justification to have been the
main moving force behind the largest march in Irish history about an international
issue. It was an extraordinary day and the IAWM can be proud of their role in
making it happen.

However, despite this unprecedented show of public support for the peace
movement the IAWM failed to achieve any of the realisable aims that they set
themselves. The IAWM was incapable of devising an effective strategy to disrupt
the logistical support offered by the Irish state to the US war machine. Then when
Bush and his cronies shored up in Hillsborough and worked themselves into a
lather of self congratulation, the Irish anti war movement was given a opportunity
to show the world that we were not taken in by this revolting spectacle that aimed
to legitimise their warmongering. Once again, the leadership of the IAWM failed
to rise to the challenge.

Why did the leadership of the IAWM do so little with so much support? The
answer lies in the politics of the Trotskyist groups that effectively ran the IAWM,
namely the Socialist Workers Party and the Socialist Party (who played the more
low key role of the two groups). Their approach to politics can be characterised as
a peculiar and offputting blend of opportunism and dogmatism. Both of these
tendencies are clearly discernible in the direction the IAWM took over the past
few months.

The scale of anti-war sentiment surprised everyone and perhaps understandably
the Trotskyists in the IAWM did not want to lose their hard won credibility by
doing anything too radical. The anti war movement gave them unprecedented
access to the media, the unions and a large swathe of potential new recruits, so
despite a revolutionary anti-capitalist analysis of the causes of war the SWP and
the SP became strangely timid. They displayed a prissy respect for legality that
would usually only be found amongst the faithful at a PD Ard Fheis. The result
was a paralysing lack of nerve. This makes good sense when a movement is in its
infancy but after February the 15th and after the government signalled in its own
inimitably unclear way that they were going to blather a bit and then continue to
offer full support to the US war effort, the IAWM should have gone on the
offensive with a campaign of non-violent civil disobedience. However, the IAWM
decided to continue to rely on demonstrations to stop the war.

I have no problem with marches and I think they are important but it was
abundantly clear that in this case marches alone were not sufficient. These
events became highly ritualised and banal events and created the sense of a
peace movement Ground Hog day. The pervasive atmosphere of these events was
not of anger or sorrow but of aimlessness. The only discernible difference
between each march was that the speeches seemed to become longer and the
march routes shorter, as if verbiage from union bureaucrats and parliamentary
parties could halt the juggernaut of US imperialism. This lack of courage and
imagination damaged the development of the anti-war movement in qualitative
terms if not perhaps in quantitative terms. Once the state announced that it was
happy to ignore public opinion, other tactics should have been considered but
politicking was deemed more important than taking effective action against the

This lack of nerve had to be balanced with some radical posturing to keep their
own members happy. Empty gestures became the order of the day from early on in
the campaign. In February organisers had decided to march down Grafton street
on a Saturday afternoon. The Gardai said this was not on but the IAWM said that
they would march up Grafton street anyway. Following some totally meaningless
and ludicrous grandstanding by the SWP at the end of Grafton street the class
warriors shuffled off. There was similar nonsense on the day the bombing of Iraq
began outside the British and US embassies. At the end of the demonstration, the
IAWM initiated a road blockade. But the sharper eyed of the demonstrators
noticed that the road had already been closed off by the Gardai, making the
gesture entirely pointless.

The IAWM did eventually shift their emphasis to civil disobedience, announcing
that they intended to blockade the Dáil. A large number of people turned up and
refused to be intimidated by a show of strength by the police. The atmosphere
was angry and resolute and in media terms it proved an effective way of
highlighting the government's complicity in the US war effort. However, the way
the event finished showed once again that the IAWM leadership was unwilling to
take even the smallest risk to register their disgust at the war. The protest was
called off after some meaningless concessions from the cops. As people moved
off for some more edifying speeches, a dozen cars came out of the front gate of
the Dáil. No doubt the life of a public representative is stressful enough without
being unduly delayed from getting home for cocoa.

This type of choreography was followed to its ignominious end in Hillsborough
where an attempt was made by protestors to circumvent police lines by jumping
into an adjacent field. The response of the stewards to this made the PSNI's day.
In the following days a number of SWP members left the organisation revolted by
the "if in doubt do nothing" stance of their party.

Now your average Bolshevik will have a go at a rolling doughnut but will then
claim that history and their analysis show that the doughnut was by rights theirs
anyway. In other words they are dogmatic about their right to be opportunistic.
This manifested itself in a number of ways. The SWP and SP attitude to direct
action as an anti-war tactic is a case in point. Both groups paid lip service to the
tactic of direct action and the SWP was even calling for mass direct action
against the war late in 2002 but when they were confronted by a small,
disorganised group trying to effect a mass direct action against US military
refuelling in Shannon they did everything in their power to undermine them. Both
groups, employing clunky and formulaic ideology, called the attempted direct
action "premature" and "elitist" and made dark predictions that the event would
end in violence. The SP went out of its way to point out that the only valid form of
direct action in Shannon was strike action initiated by the workers in Shannon and
Joe Higgins thunderously denounced the attempt in, you guessed it, yet another
speech. This empty workerist rhetoric was both disingenuous and lazy as neither
of these groups did anything to facilitate strike action in Shannon and even
refused to lobby the ICTU to oppose the war.

The marginalisation of other elements of the anti-war movement is in keeping with
the Trotskyist analysis that capitalism can only be defeated by one big,
centralised organisation with the "correct ideas." Any social movement that these
groups can manage to dominate will function according to this model. This
hostility to diversity became acute after February the 15th. Flushed with their own
importance, the Trotskyists in the IAWM behaved as if they owned the 150,000
people who turned up to protest against the war. It was noteworthy that they
showed no interest in events, pickets and demos that they had not called
themselves. It is also worth noting by the by that many of the most interesting and
imaginative initiatives of the peace movement came from outside the orbit of the
IAWM. For instance the establishment of the peace camp, the smashing up of the
US planes, the plane spotting, the blocking of the entrance to the Dáil on Day X
and the cacerolazo, were all forms of protest devised by small groups outside of
the IAWM.

There is of course a ludicrous side to all this. There is the laughably predictable
second rate political machinations and the committee room shenanigans, the
inability to count correctly how many people attend any given event, the whiff of
desperation that marks their recruiting techniques, the dull rhetoric and the
incessant paper selling.

During a blockade of the Dáil this compulsive ideology peddling reached hitherto
unimaginable farcical levels. The sit down protest became a bit heated when the
riot police began to forcibly remove protestors from the road. Most of the
protestors resisted the police non-violently but, amongst all the heaving and
shoving, one brave evangelist from the SWP was not distracted from his
revolutionary duty and continued to loudly offer his newspaper to those in the
middle of the melee. This is not too important in the grander scale of things but it
does pose the question of whether it is the most effective way of opposing
imperialism and war.

The US state is in the process of marking out a new, aggressive and very
dangerous geopolitical strategy. The little Caesars of the state department intend
to reshape the world as they see fit and they do not care how high the pile of
corpses will be. Opposing them effectively will demand more effort and courage
than we, the IAWM and the broader anti-war movement, have shown to date.
Radical politics, such as it is, in Ireland is still dominated, in both form and
content, by Trotskyism and this is a serious obstacle to successful opposition to
capitalism and imperialism. The spectre of outdated, formulaic and authoritarian
politics haunts the Irish left and we have to develop more open and attractive
forms of politics and thinking in response to this. We cannot let radical politics in
the hands of those who have a true Shidas touch - everything they touch turns to

The last significant event called for by the IAWM was a march in Shannon. The
numbers had dwindled into the hundreds as the IAWM leadership led the faithful
into an enclosed area, a sheep pen of sorts, to listen to the same old collection of
shop worn clichés. So one last question- will it be two legs good, four legs
better next time round?

More info

Direct Action against the war in Ireland by Andrew Flood
In every country after February 15th the anti-war movement was thus faced with
the question of what to do next. In Ireland almost all of the direct action protests
were targeted on Shannon airport. More than half dozen successful actions took
place, ranging from a large scale breach of the fence in October, to physical
attacks on planes as the build up to war escalated.

* Stop refuelling at Shannon warport (the protests in Ireland)
* Stop the 'War against terrorism' (General coverage of the war)

****** The A-Infos News Service ******
News about and of interest to anarchists
INFO: http://ainfos.ca/org http://ainfos.ca/org/faq.html
HELP: a-infos-org@ainfos.ca
SUBSCRIPTION: send mail to lists@ainfos.ca with command in
body of mail "subscribe (or unsubscribe) listname your@address".

Full list of list options at http://www.ainfos.ca/options.html

A-Infos Information Center