At the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts conference in Liverpool on Sunday 29 January, student members of the Socialist Workers Party, Counterfire and Socialist Action voted against their own motion opposing US sanctions or military action against Iran!
Why would the SWP and Counterfire, two groups that dominate the leadership of the Stop the War Coalition, vote against an anti-war resolution - and not only that, but a resolution they had proposed to the conference? Answer: because the conference had passed a short amendment, proposed by Liverpool Guild of Students Vice President and AWL member Bob Sutton, which said:
“[Notes] The war waged by the tyrannical, misogynist, homophobic, anti-working class regime against Iranian student activists and trade unionists, women and LGBT people”
“[Resolves] To make links with left-wing Iranian student organisations and Iranian trade unionist and socialist groups, and reaffirm our solidarity with them against both war and the regime led by Ahmadinejad”
(The full motion can be read here.)
During the discussion the SWP members and others who spoke did not debate the issues calmly and rationally, but instead denounced Bob and others arguing for the amendment as supporters of US imperialism. Mark Bergfeld, the SWP member on NUS national executive, said that Bob’s arguments “sounded like Glenn Beck”. Beck is an ultra-conservative US talk show host, linked to the radical right-wing Tea Party movement! Astonishingly, Bergfeld also claimed that the AWL was proposing the amendment in order to hide our “real” position of supporting war and sanctions.
Bob’s speech was crystal clear in opposing sanctions and the threat of war (as was the amendment itself - which in any case did not remove anything from the motion, but only added), and argued on the basis of solidarity with Iranian workers’ and students’ class struggle against the country's theocratic/capitalist regime. You could not imagine a more different argument from the sort used by right-wingers like Beck.
Moreover, when AWL members pointed out to SWPers that the back page of the paper we were selling at the conference included a headline about Iran “No to war and sanctions”, they repeated Bergfeld’s claim – that we are publishing anti-war propaganda in order to hide our actual, pro-war position! This is more than a little surreal.
But the main point is: the SWP and their friends were so militantly opposed to any statement of solidarity with Iranian students and workers that they voted against the NCAFC adopting an anti-war position.