Threat to split WA anti-war movement

Issue 

BY RUSSELL PICKERING

PERTH — Not everyone has been pleased by the success of the NOWaR Alliance (Network Opposing War and Racism) in organising some of the biggest anti-war protests ever in Perth.

Jan "JJ" Jermalinski, who claims to represent Unions WA and the Community and Public Sector Union/Public Sector Union (CPSU/PSU) at NOWaR meetings, is trying to split the peace movement by holding invitation-only meetings excluding some of the key forces in the movement.

The NOWaR Alliance was formed in 2001 out of the campaign to oppose war on Afghanistan. It was open to all those who opposed the war on Afghanistan and Iraq. In January, it successfully invited more groups to participate. At its peak, more than 60 people attended its weekly meetings. It organised the 15,000-strong February 15 protest and the 25,000-strong March 22 rally, both opposing war on Iraq.

At a 20-strong NOWaR meeting on May 29, JJ was asked to explain why some people from the NOWaR coordinating committee had held an invitation-only meeting, with the intention of forming a new WA peace network. Amid uproar, JJ warned NOWaR activists that they should not try to come to the next invitation-only meeting.

After the invasion of Iraq, JJ and others on the NOWaR co-ordinating committee suggested NOWaR conduct a round-table discussion with other organisations about the future of the anti-war movement. The NOWaR Alliance decided to hold such a meeting on May 22, however, invitations were never sent out. JJ reported to NoWar that this was due to time constraints.

Subsequently, JJ and NOWaR member Mark Newhouse called an invitation-only meeting on the same date. Some activists from NOWaR were invited to this new meeting.

The meeting discussed forming a new anti-war network with a delegated structure, possibly allowing one vote per organisation and individual activists not accorded voting rights. The meeting was attended by eight people, including three members of Greens WA as well as representatives from the Democrats and the Miscellaneous Workers Union.

Despite being an active part of the movement, Youth and Students Against the War (YSAW), University of WA Anti-War Collective, the three suburban-based NOWaR Alliance groups, the Perth city NOWaR Alliance, the Communist Party of Australia, Resistance and the Socialist Alliance were not invited to the May 22 meeting.

In an email sent to the Greens WA Peace Group e-list, JJ explained the motives for his split attempt: "There are major problems with the WA NOWAR Alliance. The direction that the Alliance is taking is towards a far left direction.

"We are facing a dangerous situation internationally with the current policies of the US government which are seeking to resolve international problems through greater use of military intervention and other forceful means. The Howard government in Australia is going with the Bush agenda.

"There is an urgent need to unite a broad section of the Australian community against this direction. By broad section, I also include the need to get a sizeable number of conservative people who normally regard themselves as Liberal, National and One Nation voters, who would not normally support Left wing causes, but are concerned about the threat of war, do not want their children to be killed fighting in military adventures overseas, or do not want to be unnecessary terrorist targets. They may not have read all three volumes of Das Kapital and fully understand the intricate contradictions of the capitalist mode of production, but just don't want bad things to happen to them."

JJ, a former Communist Party of Australia organiser who is now a member of the Greens, went on to engage in crude red-baiting: "Let me say that personally, I am not prepared to engage in some kind of conflict resolution with the Trots. They are entitled to their view of the world, but I don't have to support it and I don't have to feel bad in opposing their policies and initiatives. In fact, I am prepared to promote conflict to oppose them."

He explained that he was acting as a representative of the PSU and not on behalf of the Greens.

Nikki Ulasowski, a member of the NOWaR co-ordinating committee and a member of the Socialist Alliance, told Green Left Weekly that the strategy of exclusion "has never helped build any serious movement".

She said that while many activists were happy to discuss how to improve on what had been done, that discussion should be open and inclusive: "The Sydney process of bringing three peace groups together is instructive. It shows that by putting the movement first, people of varying political persuasions can work together."

Socialist Alliance was told its representatives could not attend the initial meetings to decide on the structure and nature of the new network, but may be invited at a later date. The next invitation-only "peace network" meeting will be held at CPSU/PSU Perth offices at 5.30pm on June 5.

From Green Left Weekly, June 4, 2003.

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