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Stop the War Coalition: Political Débâcle and Decline.

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Stop the War Coalition Reduced to Small Fringe Protests.

The Stop the War Coalition (StWC) – has anybody heard or seen much of them recently? There were days when the movement really mattered, that is when it organised against the invasion of Iraq, “Thousands of thousands of people have taken to the streets of London to voice their opposition to military action against Iraq. Police said it was the UK’s biggest ever demonstration with at least 750,000 taking part, although organisers put the figure closer to two million.” (14.2.2003) “Organiser John Rees said the turnout had been fantastic with an “electric atmosphere but also very serious and determined”.

The name Rees, now a leading member of the micro-left party Counterfire, but at the time a leading cadre of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and an expert on György Lukács‘s theory of the ‘actuality of the revolution’, should signal that the history of the StWC since 2003 has been mixed up in the saga of Respect, George Galloway, the split in the SWP (2010), and other small groups, such as the Communist Party of Britain. In fact conflict within the Coalition began very early, in 2003 itself: “Stop the War must stop the war within. Paul Donovan watches the anti-war movement lose faith and battle with itself” (Guardian. 21.9.2003). Mike Marqusee: Reply to Andrew Murray and Lindsey German. (13.9.2003).

In more recent times the StWC has not distinguished itself. from its obscene reaction to the 2015 slaughter at the Bataclan (in the news today, “Judges handed down verdicts on Wednesday to 20 men accused over the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris that left 130 people dead, wrapping up the biggest trial in modern French history. ) “Paris reaps whirlwind of western support for extremist violence in Middle East”, to its failure to stand with democrats in Syria against the Assad regime,

Letter in the Guardian. 2015.

StWC has repeatedly refused to have anti-Assad Syrian democrats and leftwingers on its platforms at events where Syria is being discussed; whereas it has offered a platform to pro-Assad speakers such as Issa Chaer and Mother Agnes. Moreover, StWC intervened to stop a Syrian Solidarity UK speaker from addressing the Migrant Lives Matter rally in London in April. It has one-sidedly failed to support demonstrations against the escalating Russian, Iranian and Hezbollah military interventions in Syria.

As well as systematically ignoring war crimes committed by the Assad regime, StWC often misrepresents the opposition to Assad as being largely composed of jihadi extremists and agents of imperialism; marginalising the non-violent, secular, democratic, local community and non-aligned opposition to his tyranny. It also misrepresents the call by Syrian civil society organisations for civilian safe havens and humanitarian corridors; claiming they are calls for western bombing, when they are actually bids to stop Assad’s bombs and save lives. We urge StWC to take on board these constructive criticisms and change its stance to support the Syrian people’s struggle against the war being inflicted on them by both Isis and Assad.
Abdulaziz Almashi Syria Solidarity UK
Peter Tatchell human rights campaigner
Yasmine Nahlawi Rethink Rebuild
Dr Rupert Read University of East Anglia
Dr Amer Masri Scotland4Syria 
Darren Johnson Green party London assembly member
Zaki Kaf Al-Ghazal Syrian Association of Yorkshire
Dr M. Alhadj Ali Syrian Welsh Society
Andy Wilson Founder, Reservists Against The War
Muzna Al-Naib Syria Solidarity UK
Dr Odai Al-Zoubi Syrian exile and journalist
Shamira A Meghani scholar
Mark Boothroyd Syria Solidarity UK
Ayob Rahmani & Sattar Rahmani International Alliance in Support of Workers in Iran
Javaad Alipoor Iranian socialist activist
Sam Charles Hamad writer
John Game independent researcher

Faced with the invasion of Ukraine StWC has again shown its worst side. That is, it has failed to stand with Ukraine but attempt an even handed juggling act that fools nobody. It is still the old tune about NATO and the West who are somehow involved in the blame for Russian troops entering the country to kill and maim. Not to mention something called the Starmer-State Bloc.

This is the kind of stuff they come out with these days:

WE MUST CARRY OUR MESSAGE ONTO THE STREETS AND INTO THE TRADE UNIONS, WHILE PUSHING BACK AGAINST THE ATTACKS ON US FROM THE STARMER-STATE BLOC AND ITS FACILITATORS

On Saturday June 25th, over 30 local groups participated up and down the country with London co-hosting a protest with CND outside the Ministry of Defence.

It comes as Boris Johnson urges other world leaders to hold firm in their long-term support for Ukraine, meaning amplifying arms supplies and deploying more troops. As belligerents bang the drums of war, the anti-war movement sends its counter message to the government.

The turn out at these events was tiny, as can be seen from the heading photo.

There are deeper problems. Even in left-wing constituencies where the StWC was strongest in the labour movement they are embroiled in controversy and in-fighting.

You have to read the full article but this gives some of the content:

People should read Mike’s article – Don’t debate the war! – in full but this is an introduction,

Stop the War leaders continue to push the line that NATO is centrally responsible for this conflict and that Ukraine must be denied the right to defend itself against Russian aggression as this would escalate the conflict. This is clear from the resolution authored by Stop the War Coalition officers and passed at the organisation’s recent conference. It repeatedly references NATO as the cause of the conflict.

It’s not surprising that that few Ukrainians, including on the left, support Stop the War’s line

I was a founder member of Brent Stop the War in 2001 and chaired the local group for many years. I was a bit reluctant to be involved recently in organising a local meeting that showcased the wrong line of the national Stop the War Coalition if it were unopposed, but agreed to find a speaker who would present the Ukrainian viewpoint. Simon Pirani, Honorary Professor at  the University of Durham who has written extensively on Russia and campaigns in solidarity with Ukraine, agreed at short notice to speak, debating Stop the War Convenor Lindsey German.

Less than a week before the meeting was due to take place, Lindsey German suddenly discovered she had a previous commitment.  No other Stop the War speaker was willing to take part. Asking around, I found there was a history of this – a refusal to debate viewpoints that challenged the official Stop the War line on Ukraine. The local co-secretary of Brent Stop the War, sympathetic to this approach, was advised by the national leadership to cancel the meeting and unilaterally did so, without consultation with other local officers or the invited speaker. It all had the whiff of a mean-spirited manoeuvre – a bureaucratic solution to a political problem which was simultaneously shocking yet predictable.

Meanwhile the efforts of the Stop the War Coalition nationally to sideline alternative viewpoints goes on regardless. Its most recent London rally on June 25th did not bother to schedule a single Ukrainian speaker.  This self-inflicted damage will be costly. It’s doubtful whether Stop the War will recover from both this kind of anti-democratic behaviour and its fundamentally wrong approach to the war in Ukraine. Its attitude in recent months has been an act of self-marginalisation, setting back our ability to mobilise against future wars, a fact that makes it all the more shameful.

Written by Andrew Coates

June 30, 2022 at 6:03 pm

The Grayzone Has it in for ‘UK Trotskyist’ Gilbert Achcar and…Noam Chomsky.

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Democrats back letter on Syria and the ‘anti-imperialism of fools’.Grayzone Reveals ‘UK Trotskyist’ Achcar First Circulated it.

This welcome letter was published a few days ago:

Erasing People through Disinformation: Syria and the “Anti-Imperialism” of Fools

By: Multiple signersMarch 27, 2021

Disreputable writers and outlets, often operating under the aegis of “independent journalism” with purportedly “leftwing” views, are spreading corrosive propaganda and disinformation that aims to strip Syrians of political agency

[The following Open Letter was a collaborative effort of a group of Syrian writers and intellectuals and others who stand in solidarity with them. It is signed by activists, writers, artists, and academics from Syria and 34 other countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, North America, Oceania, and South America, and appears in multiple languages: English, ArabicFrenchSpanishGreek, and Italian.]

Since the beginning of the Syrian uprising ten years ago, and especially since Russia intervened in Syria on behalf of Bashar al-Assad, there has been a curious and malign development: the emergence of pro-Assad allegiances in the name of “anti-imperialism” among some who otherwise generally identify as progressive or “left,” and the consequent spread of manipulative disinformation that routinely deflects attention away from the well-documented abuses of Assad and his allies. Portraying themselves as “opponents” of imperialism, they routinely exhibit a highly selective attention to matters of “intervention” and human rights violations that often aligns with the governments of Russia and China; those who disagree with their highly-policed views are frequently (and falsely) branded as “regime change enthusiasts” or dupes of western political interests.

The divisive and sectarianising role played by this group is unmistakable: in their simplistic view, all pro-democracy and pro-dignity movements that go against Russian or Chinese state interests are routinely portrayed as the top-down work of Western interference: none are autochthonous, none are of a piece with decades of independent domestic struggle against brutal dictatorship (as in Syria), and none truly represent the desires of people demanding the right to lives of dignity rather than oppression and abuse. What unites them is a refusal to contend with the crimes of the Assad regime, or even to acknowledge that a brutally repressed popular uprising against Assad took place.

It continues.

But they do not rightfully belong in that company. No one who explicitly or implicitly aligns themselves with the malignant Assad government does. No one who selectively and opportunistically deploys charges of “imperialism” for reasons of their particular version of “left” politics rather than opposing it consistently in principle across the globe — thereby acknowledging the imperialist interventionism of Russia, Iran, and China — does.

These writers and outlets have mushroomed in recent years, and have often positioned Syria at the forefront of their criticisms of imperialism and interventionism, which they characteristically restrict to the west; Russian and Iranian involvement is generally ignored. In doing so, they have sought to align themselves with a long and venerable tradition of internal domestic opposition to the abuses of imperial power abroad, not only but quite often issuing from the left.

Often under the guise of practicing “independent journalism,” these various writers and outlets have functioned as chief sources of misinformation and propaganda about the ongoing global disaster that Syria has become. Their reactionary, inverted Realpolitik is as fixated on top-down, anti-democratic “power politics” as that of Henry Kissinger or Samuel Huntington, just with the valence reversed. But this maddeningly oversimplifying rhetorical move (“flipping the script” as one of them once put it), as appealing as it might be to those eager to identify who the “good guys” and “bad guys” are at any given place on the planet, is really an instrument of tailored flattery for their audiences about the “true workings of power” that serves to reinforce a dysfunctional status quo and impede the development of a truly progressive and international approach to global politics, one that we so desperately need, given the planetary challenges of responding to global warming.

The evidence that US power has itself been appallingly destructive, especially during the Cold War, is overwhelming: all across the globe, from Vietnam to Indonesia to Iran to Congo to South and Central America and beyond, the record of massive human rights abuses accumulated in the name of fighting Communism is clear. And in the post-Cold War period of the so-called “War on Terror,” American interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq have done nothing to suggest a fundamental national change of heart.

But, America is not central to what has happened in Syria, despite what these people claim. The idea that it somehow is, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, is a by-product of a provincial political culture which insists on both the centrality of US power globally as well as the imperialist right to identify who the “good guys” and the “bad guys” are in any given context.

The ideological alignment of rightwing admirers of Assad with this kind of authoritarian-friendly “leftism” is symptomatic of this, and indicates that the very real and very serious problem lies elsewhere: what to do when a people is as abused by their government as the Syrian people have been, held captive by those who think nothing of torturing, disappearing, and murdering people for even the slightest hint of political opposition to their authority? As many countries move closer and closer to authoritarianism and away from democracy, this seems to us a profoundly urgent political question to which there is yet no answer; and because there is no answer, all across the globe there is growing impunity on the part of the powerful, and growing vulnerability for the powerless.

About this, these “anti-imperialists” have no helpful words. About the profound political violence visited upon the Syrian people by the Assads, the Iranians, the Russians? No words. Forgive us for pointing out that such erasure of Syrian lives and experiences embodies the very essence of imperialist (and racist) privilege. These writers and bloggers have shown no awareness of the Syrians, including signatories to this letter, who risked their lives opposing the regime, who have been incarcerated in the Assads’ torture prisons (some for many years), lost loved ones, had friends and family forcibly disappeared, fled their country – even though many Syrians have been writing and speaking about these experiences for many years.

Collectively, Syrian experiences from the Revolution to the present pose a fundamental challenge to the world as it appears to these people. Syrians who directly opposed the Assad regime, often at great cost, did not do so because of some Western imperialist plot, but because decades of abuse, brutality, and corruption were and remain intolerable. To insist otherwise, and support Assad, is to attempt to strip Syrians of all political agency and endorse the Assads’ longstanding policy of domestic politicide, which has deprived Syrians of any meaningful say in their government and circumstances.

We Syrians and supporters of the Syrian people’s struggle for democracy and human rights take these attempts to “disappear” Syrians from the world of politics, solidarity, and partnership as quite consistent with the character of the regimes these people so evidently admire. This is the “anti-imperialism” and “leftism” of the unprincipled, of the lazy, and of fools, and only reinforces the dysfunctional international gridlock exhibited in the UN Security Council. We hope that readers of this piece will join us in opposing it.

It seems to have got up somebody’s nose.

Max Blumenthal (born December 18, 1977) is an American journalist, author, blogger, and filmmaker. Blumenthal established The Grayzone in December 2015; he is the website’s editor and one of its contributors.

Achcar is an Arabic speaking francophone ( well known to a large public in France) who writes for the left wing Le Monde Diplomatique, this blogger recalls articles in the Diplo for many many years. He now teaches in London.

Gilbert Achcar:

Achcar was raised in Lebanon where he obtained degrees in philosophy and the social sciences at the Lebanese University. He took up residence in France in 1983, and completed his doctorate in social history and international relations at the University of Paris VIII, where, in 1991, he began teaching political science, sociology and international relations. In 2003 he took up a research position at the Marc Bloch Centre in Berlin, which he maintained until he assumed a professorship at SOAS.

I note this on the French Wikipedia entry on Achcar, ” Il a participé à l’élaboration d’un ouvrage sur la politique étrangère des États-Unis avec l’intellectuel controversé Noam Chomsky: 2009 (avec Noam Chomsky), Perilous Power: The Middle East & U.s. Foreign Policy: Dialogues on Terror, Democracy, War, and Justice, Paradigm, (deuxième édition revue et augmentée).

Written by Andrew Coates

March 29, 2021 at 1:01 pm

Red-Brown Professor, Paul McKeigue, close comrade of David Miller, “fake Russian spy and the undercover Syria sting.”

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Eliot Higgins on Twitter: "Here's just some of the things Paul McKeigue got  up. Fortunately for the people he was reporting on it he wasn't actually  speaking to Russian intelligence, but people

Assad Apologist and Close Comrade of David Miller

Observer : The UK professor, a fake Russian spy and the undercover Syria sting

This story is the depths. One of the leading members of David Miller’s red-brown “Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media was prepared to inform on people, with potentially life-threatening consequences, to the Putin regime. There is little doubt, had the agent been real that the Assad regime would have heard as well.

Who is this creature?

A more sceptical academic than Paul McKeigue might perhaps have wondered if the emails flooding into his inbox from “Ivan”, a purported Russian spy, were too good to be true.

The Edinburgh genetics professor – who devotes large quantities of his private time to pursuing fringe theories claiming that attacks on civilians are staged to smear the government of Bashar al-Assad – dived eagerly into his new correspondence.

Over three months he filled hundreds of pages with speculation, including accusing journalists, researchers and diplomats of working as conduits for western intelligence agencies. He revealed the identity of a confidential source, and shared information she gave him.

Ivan appeared to share many of McKeigue’s own personal obsessions, particularly his desire to discredit investigators who compile evidence of war crimes committed in Syria. And he claimed access to both ready cash and secret intelligence.

But McKeigue was not writing to a Russian spy, or even a man called Ivan. The email account was controlled by a group of staff at one of the organisations he hoped to discredit, who say they went undercover because of concerns over the tactics McKeigue and his allies were prepared to deploy in an effort to defend the Syrian government and its Russian allies.

diplomat at the Geneva embassy, first secretary Sergey Krutskikh, was corresponding with fellow members of the “Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media” on encrypted systems.

This is an alliance of far-left academics and researchers who claim western journalists, NGOs and others act on behalf of the CIA and MI6 to undermine the Syrian government, including faking evidence of civilian deaths and chemical attacks.

It includes the controversial Bristol University professor David Miller, who has been accused of antisemitism by his own students, a claim he denies, and the blogger Vanessa Beeley, who has frequently visited Syria on government-sponsored trips.

Group members have questioned the veracity of chemical weapons attacks in Syria and claimed Russia was framed for the poisoning of Sergei Skripal in Salisbury in 2018.

They were also part of a years-long public campaign against the White Helmets, a civilian rescue organisation that enraged pro-Syrian and Russian factions by recording atrocities as they tried to save lives, then sharing the footage.

Shiraz has an excellent report on the story, which began with a report in the Times and then the BBC and is still unfolding: Pro-Assad academic tried to grass up human rights activists to Putin.

Meanwhile fellow Red-Browner Chris Williamson retweets another pro-Assad tout; (Chris Williamson Retweeted

Written by Andrew Coates

March 28, 2021 at 1:47 pm