The Socialist Unity Network

Swindon against the war

Andy Newman

Swindon Stop the War Coalition has been hosting a series of Public Meetings. We find these reach out to a wider audience, and also generate press and radio coverage, as well as providing an excuse for fly posting anti-war posters in the town. For example about 35 people came to hear Alex Gordon in January report back from his visit to Iraq. In November Dr Kemil Mahdi of Exeter University drew a similar crowd.

At Stop the War Conference Swindon moved a resolution that local Stop the War groups need to have a regular series of Public Meetings and activities to keep opposition to the war in the public eye in-between national events. Generally there has been some discussion in Swindon StWC about whether our fortnightly organising meetings are worth continuing with, and what sort of activity we should be doing - this is a challenge for the whole anti-war movement, and there has been quite a bit of debate about this, for example on Bristol, Indymedia. We have agreed to develop a medium term strategy at our AGM on 27th April.

On 6th April, Matt Foot a practicing solicitor spoke on the government's attacks on Civil Liberties. Matt successfully defended two of the British protesters arrested at Genoa. Twenty five people attended the meeting, including members of the Communist Party (CPB), a leading Liberal Democrat, and Swindon Socialist Alliance. Members of RESPECT were present but strangely it was not mentioned (I was chairing so was not able to undertake any other activity anyway). There was a mix of all ages, including a retired clergyman, however members of the Islamic community have stopped coming to meetings although they are still on friendly terms, and I speak quite regularly with the head of the Islamic Association on the phone.

A bizarre twist was that Barbara Packer, the town's most infamous fascist turned up. I wouldn't let her in, although she pleaded with me that she was no longer active in the BNP, explaining that she supports Tyndall and doesn't like the present leadership! As if this would endear her to me - the woman is absolutely rabid and has been an active fascist for at least 30 years. Many years ago she was involved with thugs attacking left wing paper sellers, and I have personally heard her spout appalling pro-genocide filth at Roma people.

Barbara's exclusion caused a lively debate, because a number of people felt she should have been allowed in because she would expose herself by the nonsense she talks, and that public meetings should be open to anyone, particularly as the topic was Civil Liberties. On the other hand people made excellent points that she should be excluded on the grounds of security, as she is in contact with people who literally pose a violent threat to our activities. It was also pointed out that her presence would send out a message that Stop the War Meetings were not a welcoming place for blacks and Asians. Others pointed out that as the BNP seek to smash democracy it is a bit rich for them to moan about being excluded from a meeting whose aims they totally disagree with.

The following Saturday we held a mass leafleting of the town centre with a
satirical leaflet (click here to see it) that generated further press coverage. We also agreed to send a delegation to picket Bristol Crown Court on 26th April, when protestors who sabotaged military equipment at Fairford are on trial. Their defence is that they were morally obligated to disarm the planes as the US Air Force were engaged in an illegal war. It will be an interesting court case.


April 2004

 Some links


 Swindon Stop the War Coalition web site

National Stop the War Coalition web site

Bristol, Indymedia.