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Anti-War Demos Give Marxists a New Lease of Life By: Philip Johnston
London Telegraph | Monday, March 24, 2003

Marginalised and ignored, the 14 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall have been a wretched time for the hard-Left in Britain. After reaching its high water mark with the miners' strike and the attempted Militant infiltration of Labour in the 1980s, the success of Tony Blair rendered the Left a harmless relic of a bygone age.  So harmless, in fact, that MI5 wound up its counter-subversion section that for 40 years had kept tabs on an array of Communists, Trotskyites and Maoists.

But the Marxist Left has been given a new lease of life by opposition to the conflict in Iraq. The Stop the War coalition, which is behind the wave of anti-war protests - including today's London march - is a predominantly hard-Left organisation chaired by a leading member of the Communist Party of Britain.  It also comprises senior figures from the Socialist Alliance, a Marxist umbrella organisation that includes groups such as the Socialist Workers Party and the Alliance for Workers Liberty.

Suddenly, the Left is fronting a campaign that ostensibly
has support across the political spectrum, unlike the minority issues with which it is normally associated.  The coalition's leaders maintain it is a broadly-based political movement but it was the logos of the Left that were prominent on the banners that accompanied the march in London last month, in which an estimated one million people participated. The Left also dominates its steering committee.

The chairman of the coalition is Andrew Murray, who is described as a communications officer for the rail drivers' union, Aslef. Murray is also a member of the political committee of the Communist Party of Britain -
http://www.communist-party.org.uk/ not to be confused with the Communist Party of Great Britain from which it split in one of the many schisms that has characterised Left politics down the years.  Murray's organisation is the rump of the old Communist Party and is linked to the Morning Star newspaper for which he writes. In a report to the CPB's executive committee on March 15, he said the diplomatic clash over Iraq "shows the deep fractures in the bourgeoisie over British imperialism's specific role in world politics."

Murray is also aware of the anti-war movement's potential for boosting the Left. "It has the greatest political potential of any I have encountered . . . It is rooted on the
Left [but] it reaches out into the Liberal Democrats in a serious way and even into the ranks of the Conservatives."  He told the executive: "We need now to entrench the party in the mass anti-war movement at every level."  Although the CPB is not affiliated to the Socialist Alliance - which is a Trotskyite organisation - they have joined forces on the Stop the War coalition. http://www.stopwar.org.uk/

Several leading supporters of the Socialist Alliance are on the steering committee. They include Tariq Ali, the veteran Left campaigner and writer; Mike Marqusee, a former editor of Labour Left Briefing; Louise Christian, a prominent civil rights lawyer; Suresh Grover, of the National Civil Rights Movement; Roger Bannister, of the public sector union Unison; and John Rees, of the Socialist Workers' Party.

The aims of the alliance are to create "a popular socialist republic, based on democratic common ownership and democratic control of the key sectors of the economy."

But even an umbrella group is not immune from factionalism. The far-Left Socialist Party - the former Militant Tendency - withdrew from the alliance last year in protest at the dominance of the Socialist Workers' Party.  The Left retains a predilection for division that was brilliantly parodied in Monty Python's Life of Brian with the Judean People's Front and their deadly enemies, the People's Front of Judea, who hated each other more than they disliked the Romans. However, they are all together again to oppose the war and remain united by a commitment to Marxist thought and practice, a contempt for the Blair government and a belief in world revolution.

[ed: polls of British voters show both Conservatives and Labourites supporting Blair on the war; opposition comes from the far left and from the Liberal Democrats, who have been out of power since 1922.

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