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Stop the War Coalition attacks Open Labour and Lisa Nandy’s ‘Liberal Interventionism’

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Image result for O RETURN TO BLAIR WARS – A REPLY TO OPEN LABOUR PAMPHLET

StWC Warns of “returning Labour to  ‘liberal intervention’.”

 

In the latest journal of Liberation, (ex-Movement for Colonial Freedom) Andrew Murray, former Corbyn adviser and chief of staff at UNITE the Union, wrote, “Corbyn has been replaced by Starmer as Labour leader but pressure from the mass of the movement on the key issues – no more wars of intervention, support for the Palestinians, no cold war with China – can make a difference.”

Murry, who was, and is, a leading voice in the Stop the War Coalition (StWC) warned, “Biden signals a return to “business as usual” after four years of the racist authoritarianism of Trump. However, business as usual under Democrats and Republicans alike has meant one war of intervention after another this century, and Biden’s foreign policy team seems full of “liberal interventionists”. One area of great concern was that the West was drawn into “a quasi confrontational stance against China.”

Liberation Journal Winter 2020-21

These views have now been developed.

Murray, who spent many years( 1976 – 2016) in the Communist Party of Britain and Lindsey German (a leading member of the revolutionary socialist group, Counterfire) have written a polemic which grapples with the threat, as they imagine it,  of “liberal interventionism” taking hold within the British Labour Party.

Jeremy Corbyn writes in the introduction,,

Andrew Murray and Lindsey German have the benefit of a consistent and honest track record in opposition to war. They were part of the foundation group of the Stop the War Coalition in 2001 and have jointly written this pamphlet to ensure we do not descend into another bout of interventionism, and then pretend the consequences are nothing to do with the original military action.

The authors state,

In this pamphlet, we argue for the continuing salience of those policies amid indications that Corbyn’s successor, Sir Keir Starmer, and his Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy will look for ways to abandon them. Not only are the main lines of Stop the War’s policies popular in the country, but they are also overwhelmingly popular among the Party membership. And the contemporary international situation makes them as relevant as ever, notwithstanding many changes in the world since our foundation in 2001.

The attack against Stop the War has been most recently expressed in a pamphlet published by Open Labour – A Progressive Foreign Policy for New Times. It was launched with the participation of Nandy, and subsequently endorsed by another member of Labour’s foreign affairs front bench team. Its arguments aim at returning Labour to its worst mistakes of the past, all made under the heading of ‘liberal intervention’.

This brochure then, is a reply to the  Open Labour pamphlet, Progressive Foreign Policy for New Times, by Frederick Harry Pitt snd Paul Thompson (in the distant past a leading figure in the radical left group Big Flame).

These is some of the core, well thought out and illustrated, arguments in the Open Labour document,

The dominant (though sometimes implicit) framing that drove Corbynism derived from anti-imperialist perspectives originally formed during the Cold War, national liberation struggles and opposition to repressive American interventions in South East Asia and Latin America in the 1960s and 70s. With the collapse of the Soviet block after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, this binary ‘two campism’ posed the West against the Rest. However, anti-imperialism was reshaped and revitalised by military interventions, notably Iraq, influenced by the neo-conservative defence of US hegemony as the guarantor of an often somewhat shallow conception of liberal democracy.

They observe,

What is notable about its politics is the complete lack of interest in any conflicts not directly attributable to ‘the West’ and an inability to see any actor other than the US and its allies as having motives or powers. So, for example, Islamist attacks in Europe have typically been seen through a ‘reaping the whirlwind’ prism in which terror is wholly or mainly as a response to Western military intervention.

This will strike a chord with many people.

Anybody familiar with the tragedy of the Algerian civil war between a repressive military state and murdering Islamist groups during the 1990s, will be aware of the the underlying truth of this argument. Ii what sense was the Groupe Islamiste Armé, (GIA )a response to Western intervention? In what sense is are the mass murders of black Africans by Islamist Al-Shabaab in Mozambique, happening at this very moment,  the responsibility of the West?

One needs more than a few sentences to respond to the following, but the questions posed are at the heart of opposition to the Stop the War Coalition.

The Stop-the-War worldview cannot accommodate situations where Western inaction, rather than Western intervention, has played a decisive role in unfolding violence. When the STWC discusses the Syrian conflict, it is almost wholly silent about the role of Russia or Iran, and even the Assad regime itself. The response of  the Stop-the-War left to each and every major conflict the world over typically represents little more than a nostalgia trip getting the band back together for one last riff on the Iraq years. But contemporary conflicts do not sit easily with the Iraq complex of the left.

It would be hard to find any but the most general and unfocused criticism of Russia and Iran in the StWC public statements, If they have not gone as far as figures such as Chris Williamson in broadcasting false information that benefits the Assad regime it would be hard to find much that would distract from the view that Syria is a sovereign state and that however bad the state is the axis on which any solution to the civil war can be found recognises that soveriegnty.

Liberalism and the left.

An important section of A Progressive Foreign Policy for New Times. is about the political and ethical underpinning of globally “spreading the rule of law”, “global human rights” and “global emergency services”, as Mary Kaldor and Alex Sobel put it in their Introduction.

An important section of is informed by the views of liberalion demosm and human rights developed by the late Norman Geras. They are close to the ‘synthesis’ of human rights and democratic Marxism defended by, amongst others on the internationalist left,  the present Blog.  In this Blog’s case they are informed by the critical take on Marxism and democracy of writers such as  Claude Lefort, (the democratic revolution and its ‘indeterminacy’) and Étienne Balibar ( l’égaliberté. Equality-Liberty) , and the more supportive views on democratic Marxism by Hal Draper,  “one of the creators of the Third Camp tradition). One of the bases for an alternative to Campism, is this area, independent of any ‘side’ but that of left-wing internationalism and evolving fights for human and democratic rights.

This contrasts with figures such as Andrew Murray who spent several pages of  The Fall and Rise of the British Left (2019) pouring scorn on human rights, “poisonous seeds of the politics of personal identity and human rights”, full stop.

Some of the Open Labour writers’ strongest approaches is to these problems centred around political liberalism is this,

.. the late Norman Geras called those ‘tenets of liberalism not indissolubly bound up with capitalism’, namely its attempts to ‘set limits to the accumulation and abuse of political power…protecting the physical environment Progressive Foreign Policy for New Times,a space of individuals from unwarranted invasion’. It has done so albeit unevenly and imperfectly, historically through ‘evolving institutions and practices, political and juridical, to contribute to such ends’.

 

They summarise the accusation that the Stop the War Coalition is campist. That is,

The ‘two-campist’ positioning of Corbyn’s intellectual and political milieu, which relates world events to a crudely caricatured clash between the West and the rest, is instinctive and reflexive rather than properly thought through. It is an under-theorised posture automatically adopted in response to the vagaries and complexities of foreign affairs.

Campism, was originally the stand of the pro-Communist left. It was the duty of every revolutionary to defend the Soviet Union, the Socialist Camp, and, later, their Anti-imperialist allies. It can be seen the have left a trace: the gut feeling that anything the West does has to be opposed. It can lead some to ‘defend’ the forces opposed to the West, as certain leftists do, ‘defending’ Iran, Assad’s regime, and others. If the StWC could offer an example, surely they defend the Palestinian camp including Hamas, against Israel.

 

Reply by Murray and German.

The pamphlet is a diatribe in defence of the record of the Stop the War Coalition. Its internationalism, Murray and German assert, is based on that  “we have campaigned against the actions of our own government – which does not imply support for their enemies, In case you had not got that message they call it, “indigenous and home-grown opposition to a state’s foreign policy objectives.” Anybody reading the whole text will find this repeated and repeated, “Our anti-imperialism must therefore start from here. Britain is part of one imperial bloc, and that is the one we need to challenge in our effort to give the country a new direction in world affairs.”

I doubt if there are any people who’ve been on the left for any time has not heard the slogan The Main Enemy is at Home. . This is not campism “guided by support for another ‘camp’ of hostile foreign powers” but one thing is pretty clear, it not striking out an independent policy, it is being against one side. Or, as they put it in a lengthy list of causes, “The answer to this charge is simple: in every case we have campaigned against the actions of our own government – which does not imply support for their enemies.” They attack the ‘bloc’ in short.

Away from words this is a significant issue. The principle does not always sit easily with internationalism: our main friends may be abroad. How do we help people fighting against dictatorial regimes, and genocidal groups like the Islamic State (Daesh)? This is, as the Open Labour pamphlet frames it, a major issue of human rights violations, ethnic cleansing and genocide. All Murray and German can say on Syria is that there are lots of actors, “intervention on all sides “. They avoid the issue that it was Western, primarily US action, which permitted the Kurdish forces to survive and defeat the Islamist genociders and that it was Trump’s decision to withdraw that support which has let other Islamists, under the aegis of the Turkish state, to push them back. And, as we learn, is pursuing an invasion of South Kurdistan.

What do the StWC  propose for the Kurdish people in Syria and their defenders in the PYD ? I cannot recall anything from Corbyn, and even less from the StWC about meeting the military needs for armed defence. What exactly did they offer when they state, “That does not exclude solidarity and support for those struggling for freedom, of course”? Early Day motions in Parliament? Kind words before the Coronets of Power? They looked sheepish when asked about this when  Kobanê  was in imminent  danger of falling, and was saved thanks to allied airpower: today, they do even bother to look at the Kurdish struggle.

Human Rights.

What kind of human rights do the StWC defend? Murray and German manage the impressive job of talking about issues around “China’s growing military strength” without mentioning China’s record, from the persecution of the Uyghurs, clamp down on freedom for dissenters,  to the attacks on democratic forces in Hong Kong.

Instead they pontificate in a  flurry of speculation,

It is also more likely that Biden will follow Obama and Trump in prioritising confronting China. This represents the danger of a new Cold War, but not of an Iraq-style invasion or a Libya-style bombing campaign, at least for the foreseeable future. Britain has announced that it will dispatch one of its two aircraft carriers to the Far East to assist in this confrontational posture. Nandy appears signed up to the anti-China strategy – Stop the War can see no case for  Britain deploying military hardware on the other side of the globe, against a country which poses no military threat to us.

The authors were on their strongest ground, when outlining the failures of humanitarian intervention –  although the Western leaders in these cases were always careful to underlay the reasons for their acts with appeals to national self-interest rather than a serious case for human rights.

In reality the wars of recent decades were not noble crusades against ‘fascism’ but attempts at regime change involving the deployment of huge amounts of military might. This often succeeded quite easily in overthrowing existing governments. However, the methods of imperialist war and occupation proved totally incapable of building the better societies they had promised – instead they led to endless continuing conflict, widespread displacement, human rights abuses and often very large numbers of civilian casualties as well as refugees. Many societies will not recover from the consequences of being ‘saved’ by the West for generations.

Now all Murray and German  have left is a last bow to things that never happened and were never going to,

Corbynism offers a different approach to the world. His Labour government would have aimed at disengaging Britain from the US-led hegemonic project, focussing instead on dispute resolution, de-escalation of conflicts and the reallocation of resources to poverty alleviation. It would have been a friend, rather than the sworn enemy, of movements for liberation and social justice, and radical governments, around the world. Every effort would have been made to address injustices like the dispossession of the Chagos Islanders and the occupation of the Palestinian territories. And over the longer term it would have reduced the power of the City of London and curbed the arms trade, two drivers of neo-imperial policy. It would have taken arms conversion seriously. It would not have assumed that Britain has a right and responsibility to intervene militarily willy-nilly.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

February 12, 2021 at 2:59 pm

Exclusive: Tariq Ali on Progressive Military Coup in Myanmar.

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Tariq Ali has the Lowdown on Myanmar.

Exclusive.

Breaking News.

Tariq Ali sat in the attic of his Islington Town House. The veteran of many a revolution, he was honing his combat skills. Zionist Space Invaders flashed across the screen of a games console. He wove between the Jewish laser cannons and blasted a flying saucer to smithereens.

There was a sound from the Smartphone.

The urbane public intellectual and former guerrilla picked the device up,

“Take a chill pill old Red Mole, its all so bogus, like, I’ve gotten the real dope on Myanmar.”

The Californian intonation could not disguise the voice of an old comrade, who had raised himself  to the level of comprehending the historical movement of imperialism as a whole.

“Halloa Perry! What ho? “

Mr Anderson continued, now speaking his mother tongue.

“Burma’s Margaret Thatcher is gone gone gone! Por tanto, the  general mouvance, has, after una estación de tránsito, what is dominant’ will never be exhaustive of the phase in question, Ha-at-tu-si ma-ak-ke-es-ta nu-wa-ra-ta-pa DINGIRMEŠ-is sal-la-i ha-as-sa-an-na-i da-a-er.”

Tariq smiled as he recognised the familiar Hittite tag.

“Insider Source?”

“You bettcha!”

“Next issue of New Left Review or shall it be the London Review of Books?”

“Get the news out pronto!

This was the Myanmar Moment, PR, steps forwards, who would have guessed?

The Street Fighting Man recalled the days in the Quartier latin leading the crowd to occupy the Sorbonne.

He called an old comrade.

“Bonjour Edwy Plenel! ” Tariq continued in the language of Molière, “Je suis un Revolutionary, je habite  à the south of Islington.”

As the story was unfolded the top French insider journalist exclaimed,  “Bougre de crème d’emplâtre à la graisse de hérisson!

 

 

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

February 5, 2021 at 12:09 pm

Human Rights and China: Uyghur Solidarity Campaign UK.

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The Internationalist Left supports Human Rights everywhere. 

Human rights have been at the centre of left politics since 1789. Some people think that because Marx criticised civic rights under capitalism, and, in “On the Jewish Question” (1843)  considered them a product of bourgeois political culture. That they are themselves bourgeois

“The rights of egoistic man, of man separated from other men and from the community.”  Robert Fine, Marx’s basic criticism was that within political society people were seen as co-operative, while in their economic roles they were competitive, individualistic and egoistic. In short, the theory of rights expressed the division and alienation of human beings. Robert Fine defended socialist approaches which tackled these limitations.

As Paul O’Connell points out, for Marx, in his early writings,

the limited form of political emancipation provided by the attainment of the rights of man ‘certainly represents a great progress. It is not, indeed, the final form of human emancipation, but it is the final form of human emancipation within the framework of the prevailing social order.

He adds,

throughout their lives both Marx and Engels, while entertaining no illusions on the matter, wrote repeatedly in defence of the rights to free expression, protest and the right to vote.

And,

the Provisional Rules of the First International, which Marx also wrote, begins with the affirmation that ‘the struggle for the emancipation of the working classes means not a struggle for class privileges and monopolies, but for equal rights and duties, and the abolition of all class rule’.43 The Rules further ‘hold it the duty of a man to claim the rights of a man and a citizen, not only for himself, but for every man who does his duty’.

ON THE HUMAN RIGHTS QUESTION
Paul O’Connell.

The First International brought forces together, many of them from a labour movement which had been formed in the mould of (in Britain and Ireland) of the ideas of Tom Paine’s the Rights of Man (1791). French socialist parties of like the  Parti Ouvrier Français, POF) founded in 1880, also adopted this language.

More recent debates on human rights which began in France the 1970s have raised the issue of how human rights are defined by people themselves. Writers have considered how the demand for rights affects political society and creates new movements and institutions which shape the ‘community’. For some abstract human rights are not a political strategy only serve to cover up what would today be called liberal military interventions and wordy domestic statements. But for the philosopher  Jacques Rancière, human rights have been embodied in  movements   have come from the oppressed, the, the demos, the people who have had no rights, those outside existing insitutions.

…the Rights of Man become the rights of those who have no rights, the rights of bare human beings subjected to inhuman repression and inhuman conditions of existence. They become humanitarian rights, the rights of those who cannot enact them, the victims of the absolute denial of right. For all this, they are not void. Political names and political places never become merely void. The void is filled by somebody or something else. The Rights of Man do not become void by becoming the rights of those who cannot actualise them. If they are not truly ‘‘their’’ rights, they can become the rights of others.

Who is the Subject of the Rights of Man. 

The most celebrated original instance of those who had no rights demanding rights is Olympe de Gouges. She wrote the  Déclaration des droits de la Femme et de la Citoyenne in 1789 in response of the French Declaration of the Rights of Man which denied female suffrage, and kept patriarchal laws in place.

A woman has the right to mount the scaffold. She must possess equally the right to mount the speaker’s platform

For her opposition to the Terror Olympe de Gouges was guillotined.

“Yesterday, at seven o’clock in the evening, a most extraordinary person called Olympe de Gouges who held the imposing title of woman of letters, was taken to the scaffold, while all of Paris, while admiring her beauty, knew that she didn’t even know her alphabet…. She approached the scaffold with a calm and serene expression on her face, and forced the guillotine’s furies, which had driven her to this place of torture, to admit that such courage and beauty had never been seen before…. That woman… had thrown herself in the Revolution, body and soul. But having quickly perceived how atrocious the system adopted by the Jacobins was, she chose to retrace her steps. She attempted to unmask the villains through the literary productions which she had printed and put up. They never forgave her, and she paid for her carelessness with her head.

The democratic revolutions of the last centuries, described by writers such as Claude Lefort and Pierre Rosanvallon, have seen many of the right-less making new demands. The Trade Union movement, based on class struggle,  can be seen as one of the greatest human rights movements in history.The women’s movement, the gay movement, and green movements, have expanded the range of what we think of as rights.

We should not just fight for our rights, but as internationalists defend the rights of those deprived of rights.

This is a cause we should back.

And this: Uyghur Solidarity Campaign UK

For everyone’s safety and due to the Tier 4 coronavirus restrictions in London, we unfortunately can’t hold our usual monthly protest at the Chinese embassy on 5 January. But that doesn’t mean the campaign stops – read on for events and activities coming up!

“Terror Capitalism: The Enclosure of Uyghurs in NW China/Xinjiang”

Online talk & discussion with Darren Byler
3pm (UK time) Saturday 9 Jan
More info & free registration

Researcher Darren Byler will be speaking to open a discussion about the factors of profit and power behind the regime of repression, surveillance and forced labour to which the Uyghur people are subjected. This is part of a series “China & the Left: Critical Analysis & Grassroots Activism” hosted by Gongchao. Attendance is free but please register!

Write to free tortured, imprisoned journalist Zhang Zhan

Citizen journalist Zhang Zhan has been imprisoned and tortured in China. Her crime? She was charged and convicted of “picking quarrels and provoking quarrels” after travelling to Wuhan last spring and reporting critically on the government’s response to COVID-19.

This is not only an assault on freedom of speech and of the press – in the middle of a pandemic, the ability to scrutinise public health measures is a matter of life and death. Please support Amnesty International’s letter-writing campaign to demand her release.

Write to MPs: end Uyghur forced labour, end all forced labour!

If you haven’t already done so, you can still email your MP and the UK Parliament’s Business Committee to demand new laws clamping down on the global corporate giants exploiting forced labour – not only in China but around the world. Please see our letter-writing guide.

Follow and share our social media

Please help spread the word about our campaign by supporting us on social media! Follow us and share our posts on facebooktwitter and instagram.