The Guardian July 30, 2003


CPA Statement:
Divisions in the Sydney peace movement

In September 2002, forces linked to three groups  the Palm Sunday 
Committee, the Sydney Network for Peace and No War  came together to 
found the Walk Against the War Coalition.

The Walk Against the War Coalition successfully organised the mass protests 
against the invasion and occupation of Iraq. However, behind the successful 
actions there were a range of conflicts on organisational and political 
matters.

The political position and behaviour of some groups in the Walk Against the 
War Coalition provoked increasing anger and frustration among a range of 
the affiliates. In response, they began in April to discuss how best to 
continue and develop the anti-war work in Sydney. The Communist Party of 
Australia (CPA) was invited into this process in mid-June. It culminated in 
the formation of the Sydney Peace and Justice Coalition on July 7.

Almost all the members of the Walk Against the War Coalition were invited 
to participate in the Sydney Peace and Justice Coalition. It is incorrect 
that, as Democratic Socialist Party (DSP) member Nick Everett claims, the 
new coalition was "kept secret from many affiliates of the Walk Against the 
War Coalition, including the NSW Greens, Socialist Alliance, Muslim 
organisations and representatives of local peace groups, solidarity 
organisations and many individuals who have been active in the peace 
movement." It is correct that the Socialist Alliance was not one of the 
groups invited to join the new coalition.

The CPA made it clear that it does not in principle support what amount to 
organisational bans in a broad movement. They undermine the concept of a 
broad coalition in which a range of groups, whose policies and approaches 
may diverge on many questions, come together to work on those issues held 
in common.

We hold the view that organisational measures do not solve political and 
tactical differences. Such conflict will continue, although in different 
forms, and will still have to be fought out politically and over time.

However, the principle of trying to unite the broadest possible movement 
should never be treated as an absolute, isolated from other considerations.

Our main concern remains to work with other groups to consolidate and 
develop the anti-war movement in Sydney on as broad a basis as possible. 
The new Sydney Peace and Justice Coalition has a far broader base among 
trade unions, community and peace groups, sections of the ALP and religious 
bodies than do the ultra-left groups.

We also believe that the composition of the new coalition can provide an 
effective basis for much more sustained work in the trade unions to make 
the slogan "peace is union business" real.

The Charter of the Sydney Peace and Justice Coalition brings together anti-
war and anti-globalisation issues  a move we regard as positive.

The quality of the work of the Sydney Peace and Justice Coalition and its 
popular influence will be determined over time. The degree to which trade 
unionists, community organisations and younger people, especially on 
university and college campuses, will become involved will also be 
determined by the attractiveness and vigour of the activities of the new 
coalition.

Claims made by ultra-left groups that the changes will undermine the anti-
war movement and exclude the left depend on whether ultra-left and 
Trotskyist organisations are to be seen as genuine left groups and whether 
they are prepared to take a more constructive approach in the coalitions 
they join than has often been the case in the past.

There are many experiences in other areas of political work that do not 
lead us to give a positive answer to this question.

CPA members in the Walk Against the War Coalition had been concerned for 
some time about the disruptive role of the DSP and some other ultra-left 
(Trotskyist) groups in the anti-war campaign in Sydney.

While anti-war coalitions in other States issued leaflets and other 
material explaining and analysing events in the Middle East, in Sydney the 
Walk Against the War Coalition was generally unable to achieve consensus 
and was therefore only able to publicise slogans and events. This was a 
serious weakness.

It became a greater problem, which had the potential to destroy efforts to 
inform and educate the community, at a time when mass mobilisations were on 
the wane.

The need to confront new issues  the threats against North Korea (DPRK), 
Syria and Iran, and the free trade negotiations between Australia and the 
US are just two examples.  as well as the ongoing campaign against the 
occupation and privatisation of Iraq demand more public education. But they 
also make the likelihood of political divisions and blocking actions even 
greater.

There were on-going divisions on the Coalition's attitude to the United 
Nations, on questions including the number and selection of speakers and 
the approach to the organisation of street actions.

There was concern about the approach of the ultra-left groups to the 
blossoming local peace groups. The local groups they dominate have focussed 
on an intensive program of actions irrespective of the ability of 
communities to cope. The real potential for these groups, in our opinion, 
lies in them concentrating on community work and drawing previously 
inactive people into membership of and activity in the local groups.

Many active anti-war groups and individuals in Sydney distrust the DSP, 
believing that the prime focus of their activities is not to build the 
anti-war movement but to expand their own party's membership and influence.

For CPA members in Sydney, as elsewhere in Australia, the task remains to 
link and to build  in the best way possible in the objective 
circumstances  the anti-globalisation and anti-war movements, reinforcing 
in every way possible their anti-imperialist, anti-monopoly, democratic 
features.

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