Tuesday, February 18, 2003

# Posted 8:16 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BRITAIN'S ANSWER TO A.N.S.W.E.R., PART II: After my initial, disappointig foray into the rumored conspiracy at the heart of the British anti-war movement, I decided that I ought to look for information about the Stop The War Coalition (SWC) and Socialist Workers' Party (SWP) in the most obvious place of all: their websites.

What I found there (or rather what I didn't find) seems to suggest that both organizations have something to hide. While the SWC website provides contact information for the hundreds of organizations that have affiliated with it, it provides virtually no information about SWC itself or how it is run.

Try as I might, I could not find a full list of the SWC's officers. It does have a steering committee of 30-plus individuals, but gives no indications of what this committee does, when it meets or how it was "elected". (And to get to the steering committee page you have to notice a small box to the left of SWC's statement of objectives on the site's index page).

If you follow the link called "press" on the SWC index page, you come to a list of press releases followed by dozens and dozens of photographs of past marches, which take quite some time to load. If you wait for them to finish and scroll all the way down to the end of the page, you finally come to a list of officers responsible for press relations. Their names are Andrew Burgin, Alistair Alexander, John Rees and Lindsey German.

If you then go back to the steering committee page, you can find out a little more about these four. Andrew Burgin works at a socialist bookshop in London. A Google search turned up this op-ed he wrote for the Guardian.

There is no information there, however, about Alistair Alexander. If you head over to Google, you find out that the Guardian has a technology correspondent by the name of Alistair Alexander and that a private individual by the same name has decided to post pictures of his piercings on the web, including his Prince Albert.

As far as I can tell, there is no reason that all three Alistair Alexanders aren't the same person. But who knows?

Finally, we come to Lindsey German and John Rees. Who do they represent? You guessed it: the Socialist Wokers Party. German, according to the press site, is also the "convenor" of SWC, a position entailing some degree of authority that the SWC website doesn't see fit to mention. If you look at the pressclips at the bottom of yesterday's post, however, you will notice that German seems to be the SWC spokesmen quoted most often by the British papers (and never identified as an SWP figure). The other leading spokesman is Andrew Murray of the railway union ASLEF.

The other officer mentioned on the SWC homepage is Jane Shallice, the treasurer. When I ran her name through Google I ran across an SWC press release on a small anti-sanctions site that actually listed German, Murray and Shallice, along with a few others, as officers of SWC. Interestingly, the site also contains a long rant about the authoritarian methods that the Socialist Workers' Party exploits in order to crush resistance to its leadership of the British socialist movement.

According to Google, Jane Shallice is also a regular contributor to the Socialist Review, the monthly magazine of -- you guessed it -- the SWP, which is edited by -- you guessed it again -- Lindsay German.

The last thing about the SWC webpage worth mentinoning is its statement of principles. According to the site, "The resolution below, setting out the Coalition's platform, was ratified at public meetings held in October 2001 in London." In addition, thes statement notes that "The Stop the War Coalition was formed on September 21st, 2001 at a public meeting of over 2,000 people in London."

Who was invited to these meetings? Who ran them? What was said? Where exactly were they held? What does ratification entail? What else did these meetings ratify? Who knows. The SWC certainly doesn't seem interested in sharing the answers to these moderately important questions.

(By way of contrast, the Socialist Alliance, another leftist organization whose website I ran across while surfing, published minutes of its executive committee meetings, has a copy of its constitution online and provides all sorts of other relevant information about its inner workngs.)

So there you have it. Somehow, I expect there will be more to come.

(7) opinions -- Add your opinion

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