Guardian report on strains within Stop the War Coalition

Union fury at Stop the War coalition’s sectarianism
Patrick Wintour, Kevin Maguire and Michael White
Saturday October 23, 2004
The Guardian
The public sector union Unison has threatened to sever its relations with the Stop the War coalition, whose internal strains have prompted one prominent leftwinger to resign.
It accused the coalition yesterday of seeking to undermine its general secretary, Dave Prentis, and of abusing officials of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions because the federation wants the US-led forces to stay in place at least until the Iraqi elections in January.
Earlier this week the coaltion founding member Mick Rix, former general secretary of the train driver’s union Aslef and organiser of the anti-Blair “awkward squad”, resigned from its steering committee when the coalition condemned the IFTU British representative Abdullah Mushin, saying he now a supported the occupation, and even the invasion.
At the core of the dispute is disagreement whether British and US troops should withdrawn from Iraq immediately or stay until after the election.
The TUC is trying to raise cash for the federation, and seems to be increasingly supportive of its view that the troops are needed to prevent Iraq breaking up or an Islamic fundamentalist state being formed.
Stop the War’s controlling faction dismisses that as a Blairite line tantamount to approving the occupation.
Mr Rix’s anger was stirred by a statement that the unions had “broken their mandates” at the Labour party conference in Brighton and licensed the occupation, and that Mr Mushin, who lobbied in Brighton, was a “collaborator” of the British government.
In email exchanges with Andrew Murray, the coalition chairman, Mr Rix complained of statements made without consultation, and of “vitriol” against Mr Mushin and his allies, who deserved an apology.
Yesterday Mr Murray denied undermining Mr Prentis.
He added: “We regret Mick’s resignation. He played an important part in winning unions to oppose the war. But it’s very sad he should choose to resign in a way apparently designed to cause maximum divisions at a critical time.”
Adopting perhaps the campaign’s best known slogan, Mr Rix had said the controversial statement was “not issued in my name”.
He believes the coalition is being manipulated by the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party to bolster the Respect party, which it formed with the expelled Labour MP George Galloway, who has also attacked the federation.
The slanging match, in which each side accuses the other of betrayal, in the Morning Star and elsewhere, is the most serious to disrupt the coaltion, which organised the biggest demonstration ever seen in Britain but is said by union critics to be lurching into sectarianism.
Some Labour MPs have added fuel to the fire by saying that a draft coalition statement endorses murder and kidnap by condoning the use of “whatever means necessary” to end what it usually calls the “bloody and illegal occupation”.
Unison’s deputy general secretary, Kenneth Sonnet, is said to have expressed his union’s fury forcibly to Mr Murray. Concern has also been expressed in the senior ranks of the T&G and GMB, two other affiliated unions.
Accusing coalition leaders of “atrocious” treatment of the federation, Mr Sonnet said: “It’s not for us to tell unions in other countries how to operate. We have to listen to what they want … We have told the coalition we are considering our position.”
Mr Murray said: “British politics is in uproar over the redeployment and impending assault on Falluja. It would be dismaying if any affiliates should choose to disengage now because of secondary differences which could easily be resolved. We hope Unison will take this approach.”