Monday, February 17, 2003

# Posted 9:50 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BRITAIN'S ANSWER TO A.N.S.W.E.R.: For a million protesters turn out, someone has to do a lot of setting up in advance. As Americans discovered in the aftermath of the DC anti-war protests last month, those someones sometimes turn out to be Stalinists, organized under the umbrella of a front-organization knowns as ANSWER (an acronym for "Act Now to Stop War and End Racism") .

Unsurprisingly, the NY Times, Washington Post and other mainstream media outlets provided misleading and superficial coverage of ANSWER's role in the protests. Again unsurprisingly, the blogosphere was one step ahead of its professional cousins, thanks in large part to Instapundit.

In the aftermath of Saturday's protests in Europe, however, neither the mainstream media nor the blogosphere has shown much interest in who was responsible for getting people out on the streets. I didn't think about myself much until I sat down for a drink with an anarchist friend of mine who had led the Oxford contingent down to London for the anti-war march.

In to response to a few basic questions about his organizing efforts, my friend launched into a tirade against the Stop the War Coalition and its controlling member, the Socialist Workers' Party (SWP). According to my friend, the SWP has a long-running habit of setting up front organizations to control Britain's social movement du jour. Before 9/11, they used the front known as Globalise Resistance to control the anti-IMF/World Bank movement.

What makes the SWP truly objectionable, however, is not that it is opportunistic, but rather that it is authoritarian and manipulative (or as my friend put it, 'Bolshevist'). Even though its pretends to organize broad coalitions, SWP does its best to exclude all others from the planning process. Meeting times are never announced so that outsiders never have the chance to interfere with SWP proposals, which reflect the input of the same unelected executive committee that dominates all SWP activities.

SWP has also refined the art of co-opting other participants in its pet movements. Typically, it tries to flood participating organizations with its own publicity material, espousing idiosyncratic SWP views on all sorts of matters. This material includes items such as protest placards that amateur protesters would have to invest a considerable amount of their own time in making if they weren't given them by others. Thus, to the casual observer, it might seem that these protests are full of SWP backers.

A final practice that particularly irritates my friend is SWP's efforts to spell out which slogans will be chanted at every march. Thus, in London this past Saturday, my friend direct the Oxford anti-war marching band to drown out an SWP speaker who was trying to get the crowd to chant his slogans. Ahh, the beauty of the united Left.

Now, presumably, my friend's comments on SWP and its tactics aren't the final word on the matter. After all, he has a very personal interest in ensuring that others see SWP for what it (allegedly) really is.

So what does the British press say? The Guardian, it seems, isn't saying much at all. Even in its Special Report: The Anti-War Movement, information on the Stop the War Coalition and the SWP is hard to find.

One correspondent reported that "British marchers have spurned isolation for solidarity, and fear for fury. Their momentum came almost from nowhere...they bore no social or political barcode." Hmmm...

Another commented that "There were, of course, the usual suspects - CND, Socialist Workers' Party, the anarchists. But even they looked shocked at the number of their fellow marchers: it is safe to say they had never experienced such a mass of humanity."

The Guardian's editorial page asserted that "This weekend's march in London was both pluralistic and altruistic. Those opposing a war included not only lifelong dissenters and those who view American foreign policy as the root of all terrorism but also deeply unradical adults and children of all colours, faiths and ages. It was, in the words of one television reporter, the "mother of all focus groups".

Finally, in its round-up of web-reporting on the anti-war protests, the Guardian does link to this informative piece about the far left's dominant role of American protests. But when it comes to SWP, I'm still looking...

Now, surely if the Guardian has something to hide the Telegraph will expose it. But the Telegraph seems to agree that
The centre of the capital was paralysed by noisy but peaceful people from many political backgrounds. Former members of the Armed Forces, clergymen and young children all joined the march to Hyde Park.
While it takes a few cheapshots at the unreconstructed Communists in the crowd, it also quotes Stop the War Coalition spokesmen at length.

Well, it getting late and I'm getting discouraged. But I will be back on the story tomorrow.

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