Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

After Fifteen Years Why Has the Stop the War Coaliton Foundered?

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Image result for stop the war coalition

After 15 Years what do they have to show for it all?

Lindsey German of the revolutionary socialist group Counterfire and the Convenor of the Stop the War Coalition (StWC) writes today.

Our conference next month marks the 15th anniversary of our movement. A time to say no to all the wars arising from the war on terror. And to continue our commitment to opposing the system our government is at the heart of, imperialism.

If the StWC is opposed to all wars “arising from the war on terror”, and it bases its opposition on being against ‘imperialism’ is the StWC simply an ‘anti-imperialist’ group.

The confusion that has lain for years over the StWC comes from this source.

It can be ‘against’ Western, and specifically UK, involvement in ‘bombing Syria’  but it has absolutely no answer to the multiple wars in that region, except being against the one force they identity as ‘imperialist’ – the US and its direct allies.

Who are opposed to Assad, who is backed by the Russian Federation, and Iran.

Who are not – officially – supported by the StWC because the StWC is against all ‘foreign’ involvement in Syria – even (they officially) claim those fighting ‘imperialism’, like Assad.

Who the US and its NATO allies oppose.

But even here, since some US allies, such as the Saudis and the Gulf states, back non-ISIS jihadist forces to the US against Assad and against…the Kurds.

Who, a progressive left force, are supported (in the shape of the YPG) by the Americans…

Who have been driven to oppose to Turkey, its ally, when they fight the Kurds..

Who are also…

Well, we could go on.

And on.

Stopping the War is clearly not on the cards in Syria, nor has the slogan any meaning in dealing with the fighting in Iraq.

StWC claims not to “take sides” in Syria, but somehow be to be against “war” without being pacifists – that it absolutely against any violence.

But the violence continues, and there is no such thing as a non ‘intervening’ side when not doing something is to let things, continue…

The incoherence of the position of the STWC is to imagine, or at least claim, that they are both  au-dessus de la Mêlée  and anti-imperialist.

But we all incoherent faced with the mass killings taking place.

But failing to stand up for human decency in the face of the genocides taking place and saying, in effect, “none of our business”, leave a nasty taste in the mouth.

Most people have simply walked away from this crew.

Let the Festivities Commence!

It would be churlish not to leave the StWC with some crumbs of comfort.

In a note of self-celebration and a much needed pat on the pat, German also states today,

We did a great thing collectively with Stop the War. We have maintained it as an organisation and in the past year have seen a considerable increase in support, despite (or perhaps because of) the attacks on Corbyn. We are, I think, the major anti-war movement in any Nato country. The attacks from the right over the Syria bombing vote in 2013 showed the legacy of the movement and what damage we did. Ditto the Syria vote last year, used as a vicious attack on Jeremy Corbyn (and joined in by the pro-intervention left). There are many issues to debate about our history, and still a job to combat interventions in the Middle East and through Nato expansion.

But no, let us continue churlishly.

In reality all that remains of this “great thing” is that the StWC struggled to get a couple of thousand  people at its last demonstration (November 2015) and barely more than a couple of hundred at the CND anti-Trident protest outside Parliament this July.

One notes who they chose as a speaker at the November event.

And this sprightly new face, before his more recent Brexit campaigning:

Image result for november 2015 stop the war coalition demonstration tariq ali


The major reason for their decline is that the StWC is  as we have just seen, an irrelevance in the face of the events unfolding in the Middle East.

Another is that  the group, no doubt caught up in what Counterfire calls the ‘actuality of the revolution’  feels free to expound on a variety of issues  with a less than direct link to war.

It published this tissue of lies a few days ago:

Liberté. Égalité. Fraternité…Unless You’re a Muslim Woman

These are some of the most shameful episodes in the treatment of Muslim women in France that I can recall. They are state sponsored bullying and racism pure and simple. Islamophobia is only one form of racism, although it is the major one in Europe today. But it is the only one which targets the behaviour and dress of women in particular, and tried to alter this behaviour in the most draconian way.

German shamefully tries to link the ban on the Burkini to French international interventions.

She can barely resist saying of the atrocities, “they had it coming to them…”

France has also been increasingly strongly involved in interventions in Muslim countries, most notably Syria and Libya, which have led to increases in the level of terrorism.

Without going into great detail about  the issue we simply note.

  • It was not the French ‘state’ which tried to ban the burkini, but right-wing local authorities on the country’s coastline.
  • The French ‘state’ in the shape of the Conseil d’Etat (Council of State, the clue being the second part of the name…) overturned the ban. It said it was incompatible with human rights.
  • It was kind of German to express concern for the mass murders carried out by Daesh supporters in France. But perhaps something a little more forthcoming than a reference to “increases in the level of terrorism” linked to “interventions in Muslim countries” might have been more appropriate for those close to the victims in  Nice, Paris and Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, to cite but the most recent atrocities.

16 Responses

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  1. perhaps STWC’s lack of principals and opportunism has become obvious to everybody?
    Perhaps because people can see that it is completely undemocratic, governed by a Trotskyist clique who can’t even run a cafe?


    September 2, 2016 at 10:49 pm

  2. Andrew Murray seems to be doing a Julian Assange impersonation in the event with Galloway. Surely not.

    Philip Cross

    September 3, 2016 at 10:36 am

  3. And yet – what other organisation is there out there which consistently opposes our rulers’ militaristic urges to pile into conflicts with – usually – dire results. If anyone were proposing a better organisation, without some of StWC’s defects, then all well and good. But generally the critiques of StWC never get beyond the usual carping. Which is why, despite everything, I for one am happy to remain associated with StWC. Its critics at best have nothing to offer, and at worst are the very people who cheerled the invasion of Iraq.


    September 3, 2016 at 10:38 am

  4. If criticising the StWC for having not the slightest progressive idea about the politics of Syria and Iraq, and for indulging in the kind of prejudiced rubbish German comes out, is carping, then carp am I.

    Andrew Coates

    September 3, 2016 at 11:37 am

  5. Francis is right, there is nothing better, but Coates is also right, in some way.
    It’d be good to see free and fair elections to elect new STWC leaders who are not part of Counterfire, but it won’t happen.


    September 3, 2016 at 1:53 pm

  6. The STWC is a reactionary shower, and not even tue pacifists: they actually *support* war, so long as it’s against the bourgeois democract of the west. They’re Third Period Stalinists.

    Jim Denham

    September 3, 2016 at 8:18 pm

  7. Jim D – but they are not ‘stalinists’, they are Trots just like you.


    September 3, 2016 at 10:16 pm

  8. I’ve read quite a lot of “third period” Stalinist material. I’ve read quite a lot of StWC material. I can’t see the similarity at all.


    September 4, 2016 at 9:13 am

  9. They’re effectively Third Period Stalinists because they believe fascism is, on balance, preferable to bourgeois democracy, and have repeatedly demonstrated this by siding with fascist and quasi-fascist regimes and movements against the bourgeois democracies of the West. It could be argued that a more accurate analogy is with the 1939-41 Comintern, when the Stalinists effectively supported Hitler against the Allies.

    Jim Denham

    September 4, 2016 at 12:21 pm

  10. I’m not convinced that analogy is the best tool for making sense of the StWC, or of anything else for that matter, except occasionally when the things compared are very similar. StWC in 2016 and the CI in 1929 or 1939 are probably a bit too disparate to draw any meaningful analogies.


    September 4, 2016 at 9:17 pm

  11. Andrew Coates

    September 5, 2016 at 5:43 pm

  12. They really should change their name to “Stop Certain Wars.” (Those begun by the “West,” of course — those begun by, say, Russia — well, those are different…)


    September 6, 2016 at 8:56 pm

  13. What I find quite amusing is that supposed Marxists (who often seem to think they have come across a uniquely radical idea – that ideas might be formed in specific historical circumstances – unlike we left-liberals – who are obviously yet to appreciate this mind-blowing idea) use terms such as “Nato Expansionism”. My starting point in understanding popular support for Nato (and to a greater extent the EU) across Central Europe, the Baltics, some former Soviet republics…would be their various historical experiences of invasion and occupation and desires for self-determination and security. The STWC “analysis” seems to be either that they have been duped or manipulated by the western powers and have no agency of their own or (worse still) that they are traitors who have experienced the wonders of Communism and forsaken them.

    It is technically true that Nato has expanded – but, looking at the articles on the STWC website – they are not talking about the enlargement of a voluntary association – and certainly not taking into consideration the historical circumstances that have led to an increased interest in membership.

    alex ross

    September 7, 2016 at 2:27 pm

  14. I sometimes think that the people who write for the StWC, Counterfire and its allies, not to mention others in the same line of thought, do not deliberately ignore or pass over the mountains of books on the USSR’;s camps, repressive ‘laws’, secret police, mass murder…… the Eastern Europe experience, or China.

    It’s that they think it can be dismissed as ‘Stalinism’ which has nothing to do with them, with Leninism, with Trotsky’s own actions (see Terrorism and Communism), the history of the USSR the very basic and simple point that these regimes ‘solved’ political problems by repression and killing people.

    Andrew Coates

    September 7, 2016 at 5:18 pm

  15. I have an SWP friend who makes the same dismissal (anti-democratic things that have happened on the left are “Stalinist” – nothing to do with us – nothing to see here…). I point out that the SWP does not have free elections (where you can elect individuals to office on a 1 member 1 vote basis, via a secret ballot – instead you have to be delegated, put your hand up and later get shouted at by a heavy if you vote in the “wrong” way…in my personal experience…anyway). Pretty much the same people stay in office for eternity (unless they split and then stay in office in their new faction). Left Unity seem to have opted for a more democratic model…although people who I know who are involved seem to be loosing the will to live as it has become a refuge for various estranged left-cult members. And the Corbyn factor seems to be undermining its raison d’être.

    alex ross

    September 8, 2016 at 1:58 pm

  16. Andrew – you’ve hit the nail right on the head there. The notion of “Stalinism” as something completely separable from “Leninism” or Bolshevism has been deluding leftists for decades.


    September 8, 2016 at 4:44 pm

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