Guidelines for Stop the War Local Groups
How to make a Stop the War group work
In the last few months there has been a sharp increase in the number of people contacting us about getting involved, joining, organising activity and setting up new groups. Given this rise in interest and activity the Stop the War office and the officers' group is committed to putting time and resources into helping to develop local groups.
From now on, we will be sending out a regular email to all StWC group. You can contribute to this by sending us reports of meetings, photos, videos, posters and ideas which we can bring together to show what groups are doing around the UK.
There was a very good discussion about local work at the last steering committee. Here are some pointers about how to make Stop the War groups old and new work effectively:
The national debate
A debate is raging in national politics about foreign policy and the anti-war movement, partly because of Jeremy Corbyn's leadership. We should be part of it everywhere. Find out your local MPs voting records on issues of war and invite MPs to debate with us or speak on our platforms. Offer to speak at local Labour Parties and be prepared to organise lobbying of MPs over the key issues.
The national campaign will provide speakers on request. Provide a report of any Stop the War events, including photos, for national website.
There is widespread popular opposition to the current wars and the emphasis should be on creating the maximum profile to connect with as many of these people as possible. The following are crucial steps:
• Street stalls and petitioning
• Regular well-publicised public meetings and other events. We are currently encouraging groups to hold meetings on the following topics: 15 Years of the War on Terror, The People’s Chilcot – is Blair guilty of war crimes?, Islamophobia and the war in Yemen
• Encouraging all members and supporters to leaflet and petition their communities, workplaces, colleges and so forth
• Approaching trade union branches, trades councils, schools, faith groups etc. to support and affiliate to Stop the War locally and offer to send them speakers
Every group should have a social media strategy, including Facebook and Twitter accounts and regular e-mails. Notify the national office of all events as well so that you benefit from our online reach.
Good communication helps draw in new people. We should add new names that we get on stalls and at meetings to refresh our mailing lists. The national office will help you reconcile your contact list with members paying national membership in your area.
We should also try to make sure we have someone pro-actively dealing with the local press. Press operations and follow up on Twitter and Facebook locally helped to ensure our lobbies over Syria had a big impact.
A wide alliance
Nationally, Stop the War brings together most of the national trades unions, many faith groups, a wide range of campaigning organisations including CND, PSC, politicians and members from Labour, the Green Party and a number of other left groups. We should make sure local groups reflect this and represent a wide spectrum. Public events should conform to this broad based representation. Ensure that officers and committee positions represent the diverse character of the campaign's base.
There is a widespread politicisation amongst students. Every group will have students amongst their activists or on their e-mail list. If there isn't a student group locally try and organise a meeting or debate at the local University/college as a first step to setting one up. A well-publicised/relevant college meeting will be a hit. Ensure student representation on the local committee, and in speaker’s panel in public events
There is very encouraging support from musicians/writers/comedians and other cultural figures. It is worth trying to use this support locally to put on benefit events that can attract new audiences as well as making money! Funds can also be raised through dinners, BBQ’s in summer, sponsored walks, etc. Ensure everyone attending receives a membership form to join or renews their membership to the national campaign.
In order to make all this happen it is important to have a regular meeting open to all members, no less than monthly. A committee elected by this meeting should meet as often as necessary to pull together agreed work. All meetings should be welcoming to new members, and all viewpoints within the Stop the War remit treated with respect. The committee should reflect the breadth of the organisation. Make every effort to get new activists with their energy, ideas and networks involved.