Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

New Cold War? The Return of Stop the War, Jeremy Corbyn and ‘anti-imperialism’.

with 6 comments


Jeremy Corbyn, “the levels of anti-Chinese racism in our society are quite horrendous” .

In Left Out (Gabriel Pogrund and Patrick Maguire. 2020) it is said that “foreign policy is the real locomotive force” of Jeremy Corbyn’s leftism and that of his Director of Strategy and Communications, Seumas Milne.    (Page 77) Activists on the left would hardly have needed this book to tell them: the former Labour Leader was both prominent in the protests against the Invasion of Iraq, in the Stop the War Coalition (StWC), and, less visibly to the wider public, has been active within Liberation, the successor (renamed in 1970) to the Movement for Colonial Freedom. (MCF).

For Pogrund and Maguire his worldview is that “the US was both a global hegemon and a force for ill in the world. They believed its imperialism ought to be resisted, and that resistance to its imperialism could almost always be justified.” (ibid).

This is unfair to Corbyn (though not to Milne). Jeremy Corbyn has always emphasised human rights. Yet one would hope that he gave them first place, not get locked into the views put forward by (amongst others) his former top aide that submerge them with issues about ‘imperialism’.

The Movement for Colonial Freedom was born out of resistance to the British Empire. At present its legacy can be traced in the reckoning with this past, given a stimulus recently by the American-centred Black Lives Matter. But, as Priyamvada Gopal has argued in her important  Insurgent Empire. Anticolonial Resistance and British Dissent  (2019) these radicals were shaped by a form of “engagement with non-European peoples.” (Page 453.) She traces the history right back to the French Revolution, the Chartists, Caribbean revolts, the long-history of the drive for independence in the Sub-Continent,  and the post-Russian Revolution anti-colonial movements, seen in on the left with the transnational League Against Imperialism (1927) and the emergence of Pan-Africanism.

The “insurgents who inspired them” changed the way anti-colonialists, anti-imperialists, thought. In place of liberal paternalism, and the view that the colonised learnt their demands from the example of ‘British’ liberty and the rule of law, the British, and other European lefts began to work with equals and became changed as a result.

Outside of academic and circles  ‘contrapuntal histories’ of Empire, however brilliant,  or battles over the symbols of the ‘culture wars’ over Empire, is of less importance than the kind of solidarity shown in the past by campaigns such as the Movement for Colonial Freedom. Many of us have taken the view that we have to listen to what today’s ‘insurgents’ from Syria, Belarus to Hong Kong have to say. Many of us, looking at the “post-colonial” world have found that demands for human rights, defined by people suffering abuses or demanding their own freedoms, take priority over global conflicts between the ‘hegemon’ and the rest.

Jeremy Corbyn is, as indicated, a supporter of the Stop the War Coalition. The meeting he addressed is titled, “The US, China, and the threat of War.”

Here is what a writer for Counterfire, a left group which has great influence in the StWC says of one player in this conflict.

China: a socialist force for good or an imperial superpower in the making? An historical evaluation – long read

Dragan Plavšić

China is an emerging imperialist power that is seeking to assert itself in a world dominated by the established imperialist power of the US, still the most powerful economic, political and military force in the world today. The escalating tensions between the US and China make the dangers of another Cold War palpable, with the Trump administration in particular determined to shift the traditional focus of US and Western foreign policy from Russia to China.

In this impending conflict, the left in the UK, the closest ally of the US, has a crucial role to play. First and foremost, it must be guided by the principle laid out in the First World War by the German socialist, Karl Liebknecht, that our main enemy is at home, not least given the eminently pragmatic fact that this is the enemy within reaching distance of our protests.[18]

But in following this principle, for all the reasons argued here, it would be a mistake to see China as somehow on our side, even if only on the misleading basis that our enemy’s enemy is our friend. This temptation should certainly be resisted, not least because we ought not to forget the corresponding principle of international solidarity with genuine struggles against oppression in other countries. We need to give expression to both principles as and when the need arises.

He gives an example,

The crisis in Hong Kong is a case in point. The left should certainly support the movement for the defence of democratic rights there, but in ways that encourage its political independence from the US and the West. In particular, this means opposing those who would raise the demand for Hong Kong’s independence, as this is a demand whose logic would drag the movement into increasingly submissive dependence on Washington and London.

Plavšić concludes

It therefore follows that our ally in China is not the CCP-run state but the working class.

This is a start, at least.

But the obsession with the potential for protests and movements to play into the hands of the ‘US and the West’ is not a good sign. It serves as a very convenient pretext for ignoring any message somebody, or in this case, a groupuscule, does not like. It enables them to protest “at home” while ignoring an ‘abroad’ that modern communication and migration, personal contact, and even holidays, makes pretty close to hand.

Human rights are universal. The national, religious and cultural oppression of Uighurs is an issue regardless of what the ‘West’ says and the class inflection it takes. We have to learn, like our forebears, that we cannot stand by and let their voices be unheard.


Unheard they were at the Stop the War Coalition’s Labour Fringe event.

This is an account (from the video) of what was said:

The meeting was introduced by Shelley Asquith. She introduced Jeremy Corbyn.

Corbyn began with the Coronavirus crisis, the refugee crisis, an environmental crisis, seen in the fires in the US and Brazil, and the effects of global warming on the polar regions. He then spoke on the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, and British complicity through supplies of arms to Saudi Arabia, Palestine, the dangers in the Middle East, . He wished to apologise for the War on Iraq, driven by “xenophobia” “excessive nationalism” and lies. It had unleashed terrorism. He wanted to see Peace in the Middle East (no mention of Syria).  The Stop the War Coalition needs to be here to oppose War. It can help halt the arms industry that has fuelled conflicts by moving in the direction of a “green sustainable future”.

Lindsey German focused on rising US-China tensions, and warned about being  “taken in by this kind of rivalry”. She stated while there are “criticisms that can be made” (no mention of what these might be) these should not be an excuse for War. Salam Yaqoob, claiming to be on the ‘left’  talked of Julien Assange, and algorithms, and compassion (Nothing about Uighurs),  joining the ‘keyboard war’ to promote solidarity and mental well-being.

At the end of the meeting, Corbyn talked “the levels of anti-Chinese racism in our society are quite horrendous” linked to Covid-19 (Corbyn), and a the encouraging international solidarity towards the United States the Black Lives movement, (nothing about Uighurs). Issues now  pumping up arms in the Middle East, stocking conflict with Iran, human rights (nothing about Uighurs). Builds up anti-China rhetoric, direct conflict, or wars by proxy with China. Our policy should be guided by environmental sustainability and human rights (nothing about China).

As Asquith said, the “anti-imperialist” movement has some way to go…

Full Video: Facebook.

I am blocked from following the Stop the War Coalition twitter feed to find out more reactions,   but there is this report;

Morning Star.

WE MUSTN’T bend to the propaganda campaigns of the warmongers,” Labour MP Diane Abbott told a Stop the War fringe meeting during Labour Connected at the weekend.


Ms Abbott pointed out that while in the US, as in Britain, there “is no money for proper personal protective equipment” Mr Trump had hiked the military budget by 18 per cent to $738 billion (£571bn).

She condemned his aggressive foreign policy, including the imposition of tariffs on other countries.

“Trump even slapped tariffs on Britain once — so much for the special relationship,” she said.

“But Boris Johnson owes so much to Trump that when Trump says jump, Johnson says ‘how high?’” — pointing to Britain’s craven agreement to cease working with China’s Huawei corporation under US pressure.

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the world faced three huge crises: coronavirus, a refugee crisis that has displaced 70 million people and climate change.

“Yet where is the biggest humanitarian crisis? In Yemen because of the Saudi war.

“What is our contribution? To provide more and more arms. We are complicit in the killing of wholly innocent children,” he charged.

Mr Corbyn said he was proud to have formally apologised when Labour leader for the party’s role in starting the Iraq war.


Nothing about the universal human rights of those in China, the focus of the New Cold War.

Nothing about Syria.

Nothing about Venezuela.

Those who now hold mantle of League Against Imperialism ignore the very universality of rights that they claim to defend.

See: Shiraz. 

China and Myanmar face Uighurs and Rohingya that are fighting back after years of oppression




6 Responses

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  1. Not surprisi g nothing was said about the issues you highlight. It’s not their politics is it.

    Sue r

    September 21, 2020 at 3:25 pm

    • Having carefully watched the video of the event it is incredible that, at a time when there is report after report on human rights abuses in China (the one that had really got to me was a very detailed full printed page in Le Monde on Friday about the state posting Chinese people to live in Uyghurs’ home, cheek-by-jowl with families) that they can play with international politics like this:

      Andrew Coates

      September 21, 2020 at 3:37 pm

  2. The US is racist – so criticism of China cannot be true

    During the Cold War the cry “but America lynches blacks” was a favourite Stalinist riposte to any criticism of the USSR’s human rights record.
    This is known as a Tu quoque – a form of debating trick based upon the perceived hypocrisy of the opponent rather than the merits of their argument
    Last weekend’s Morning Star (Sept 19-20) carried a classic example of this with an article by one Fiona Edwards (of something called the ‘No Cold War’ campaign and – i’m told – Socialist Action), entiled ‘The left must oppose the US cold war on China and not sit on the fence.’

    Ms Edwards examines “the reality of the contrasting approaches of the US and China on the major issues facing humanity – the pandemic, climate change, and human rights.” We are treated to a very partial account of China’s supposedly superior record on all those issues (Xi Jinping’s handling of the Covid-19 epidemic may compare favourably with Trump’s – but that’s hardly something to boast about. The authorities in China suppressed the news that there was human transmission of Coronavirus in January – a decision that surely had lethal consequences, not just within China but throughout the world).

    Now, of course, no socialist wants to see a new cold war, and in the loathsome Donald Trump, China’s apologists have their strongest card.

    We’ll leave aside Ms Edwards’ enthusiastic claims for China’s record on climate change (which would be disputed by, amongst others, the New Internationalist, which in October 2019 pointed out that “cutting down coal consumption at home while building up coal capacities abroad is no contradiction under Xi’s ecological nationalism”) and move straight on to human rights.

    Here we encounter the classic Stalinist Tu quoque : “The claims of the US government is the ‘land of the free’ and an international beacon of human rights, while China is the land of human rights abuses are both hypocritical and completely absurd … This is while unarmed black people are gunned down daily by cops and Black Lives Matter protesters are brutalised by various militarised forces in the US”.

    All true, of course, but entirely irrelevant to the Xi regime’s well- documented record of authoritarianism and human rights abuses,

    This could be dismissed as simple naivety until we get to Ms Edwards’ treatment of what she calls “fabrications” about the Uighur Muslims: dismissing claims of mass detention in concentration camps and of genocide as coming from the Trump administration (actually, they come from a range of reputable sources including Amnesty International), Edwards claims: “The facts are the Uighur population in Xinjiang has more than doubled in the past 40 years from 5.5 million to over 11 million and there are 24,000 mosques in the province.”

    The truth is that to take statistics over a period of 40 years is a sleight of hand: the current ultra-repressive regime in Xinjiang only began in 2014. The regime’s own statistics show a dramatic drop in birthrates in Uyghur-majority areas since 2015 and particularly 2016.

    Birth rates in Uighur regions plunged by more than 60% from 2015 to 2018. Across the Xinjiang region, birth rates fell by nearly 24% last year alone.

    Since 2014 various measures (Including forced sterilisations), have been implemented to suppress the Uyghur birth-rate; and the state has been actively promoting Han Chinese immigration into Xinjiang to alter the population balance. It’s plain that this meets the UN definition of genocide…and the Morning Star and Ms Edwards both support it. No debating tricks or dodgy use of statistics can hide that simple, shameful fact.

    Jim Denham

    September 21, 2020 at 7:01 pm

    • China’s allegedly excellent record on coping with the Covid Pandemic features in the StWC meeting outlined in the post here.

      This is another logical fallacy, ignoratio elenchi, making a claim, which may or may not be true, but which has nothing to do with the issue (Chinese repression).

      Andrew Coates

      September 21, 2020 at 10:38 pm

  3. 1 October is the anniversary of the founding of the “People’s Republic” of China. There will be a lot of “first camp” right-wing and liberal agitation on the one hand, and “second camp” China apologism on the other.

    So the Uyghur Solidarity Campaign and Labour Movement Solidarity with Hong Kong have jointly launched an open letter expressing international workers’ solidarity and a broad statement of third camp politics, aiming to put a flag in the ground and hopefully get some action going on 1 October.

    Please sign and share widely ASAP – thank you!

    Jim Denham

    September 21, 2020 at 7:07 pm

  4. Not only do the Labour Party’s resident Stalinists refuse to condemn the treatment of dissenting groups of people in China, they also ignore the ecological damage being inflicted by the Chinese states unrelenting pursuit of profit and influence. This morning I read a statement in the news that China forecasts its emissions will reach a peak in 2036, after which it will aim for carbon neutrality in 2050.Considering we are facing a climate emergency right now, I don’t think that is good enough. I also read about the container port that they have built on the Kenyan/Somali coats, destroying the reefs and marine habitat and destroying the livelihoods
    of the fishermen in that area. When the West did it, we heard a chorus of disapproval, but not a peep from the usual crowd. This container port, which will be one of the largest in the world, will also be in the middle of nowhere, so they will them have to lend Kenya the money to construct a motorway, at God knows what enviromental cost. This is not to mention the way they are forcing countries like Kenya to build fossil power stations, despite the fact that Kenya is amply supplied with electricity from greener sources so that any energy generated will have to be imported.

    Sue r

    September 23, 2020 at 5:25 pm

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