Martin Thomas | 27.04.2002 09:33
2. Also in Birmingham: AWL members put out a leaflet, "why socialists should be secular". At a meeting of the "dissident" or "non-SWP" Stop the War committee (there is a split in Stop the War in Birmingham), the leaflet is denounced as "something the BNP could put out" and Jim as an "Islamophobe". No AWL member is present. Others in the meeting dissent from the denunciation. The committee decides to table the question of the leaflet and Jim's views for discussion at its next meeting.
3. Saturday 13 March, London. The Socialist Alliance executive discusses its attitude to the Palestine demonstration that same afternoon called by the Muslim Association. AWL member Martin Thomas points out that the Muslim Association's most prominent indication of its politics, on its website, is a top-featured link to the Pakistani fundamentalist party Jamaat-e-Islami; argues that the Socialist Alliance should not "go with the flow" of such politics but raise clearly distinct socialist slogans such as "two nations, two states". No-one disputes the facts about the Muslim Association; but the meeting votes for the slogans "Victory to the intifada! Free Palestine!" The SWP members present vote against "Israel out of the occupied territories" (wrong emphasis, they explain).
4. Saturday 13 March, London: the demonstration. Very big - perhaps not the 100,000 claimed, but very big. As the march sets off, stewards try (with not much success) to separate marchers into segregated men's and women's contingents. The dominant theme is Sharon = Hitler, Zionist = Nazi, Star of David = swastika. Few precise demands (none on the leaflet calling for the demonstration). Rally in Trafalgar Square opens with a reading of verses from the Koran. Jeremy Corbyn and Tony Benn speak. They are repeatedly interrupted, at the microphone, by an imam chanting Allah-o-Akhbar and getting the crowd to chant along.
5. Some Asian demonstrators individually express dissent by refusing fundamentalist leaflets, by not standing still for the readings from the Koran, or by taking "two nations, two states" placards from AWL members there. No collective, visible, organised expression of dissent from the left groupings in the demonstration.