Building the Anti-War Movement from Below

At the end of the year the organisation called the Irish Anti War Movement went through an internal crisis as some of those involved tried to democratise it. When the Socialist Workers Party who controlled the IAWM responded by arranging the expulsion of some of its opponents from the committee most of the independent groups reacted by disaffiliating from the IAWM.

The war however goes on and in June George Bush visits Ireland. The question now is what sort of broad anti-war movement can be built that is genuinely inclusive and democratic? 

The first steps have already been taken with a number of meetings leading to the launch of Ireland Against War which has provisionally scheduled its first conference for May 15th.

It is probably safe to assume that this conference will not repeat the most obvious mistake of the IAWM, that is to allow a single party de facto control of the organisation. However this is not the only requirement of building a inclusive and democratic campaign. These are the other issues we believe need to be addressed.

1. Respect for diversity within the coalition and the broader movement. We have seen how the SWP in the IAWM attempted with some success to marginalise and under-mine those who took direct action against the war. It is unlikely that this particular group would be marginalised in the new campaign but a good general principle would be to recognise that different groups favour different tactics and at public events ensure that the speakers represent the range of tactics and analysis that exist within the campaign rather that just the majority opinion.

2. Led by activists and not parties. The only influence that political parties should have within the campaign is that they can win by arguing their ideas. There should be no automatic seats on decision making structures for the representatives of political parties (although observers should be invited).

3. Genuine local groups - in order to boost their voting strength at national IAWM meetings the SWP pretended that its local branches were in fact anti-war groups or in some cases seems to have invented groups where none had been active for months. Groups that have a delegate at decision making meetings should have had a publicly advertised meeting no more than two weeks before such a meeting and should have had some form of public activity in their area within the previous 6 weeks. The simplest way to ensure this had happened would be to insist that such events be advertised on the campaign website at least 3 days before they occur.

4. Decision making - decisions should be made on the basis of mandated and recallable delegates from active groups within the campaign. A national meeting of such delegates should take place every two to three months to decide on the direction of the campaign with motions for this meeting being discussed locally in advance so that delegates can be mandated.

5. Officers - some people would have to put in work between such meetings to ensure such decisions are implemented and communicated, issue press releases etc. But they should not decide the direction of the campaign, this should be the function of delegate meetings. Obviously they will need to make minor decisions on a day to day basis and from time to time emergency decisions but as far as possible these should be within the mandates laid down by the delegates meetings. In addition both officers and delegates ought to be rotated regularly in order to guard against a few figures assuming de facto control.

These are some of the key organisational elements that we think are needed for an inclusive and democratic campaign. There are very obviously many questions of politics and tactics as well but lack of space prevents us going into them here. For more on these and anarchist ideas on organisation see Red and Black Revolution no 7 or on the web at:

WORDS: Andrew Flood (Follow Andrew on Twitter )


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