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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for Colonial Freedom) Andrew Murray, former Corbyn adviser and chief of staff at UNITE the Union, wrote, “Corbyn has been replaced by Starmer as Labour leader but pressure from the mass of the movement on the key issues – no more wars of intervention, support for the Palestinians, no cold war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

Counterfire, “Starmer is now following a Blairite directive to destroy the left in the party once and for all.”

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John Rees and Lindsey German on Farage and the Brexit Party – Don't mention George Galloway! | Tendance Coatesy

Counterfire leaders Rees and German with an old friend.

If there’s one thing worse than being lectured to by the Morning Star, it’s being hectored by Brexit backing Counterfire whose leaders, John Rees and Lindsey German,  played a prominent part in George Galloway’s Respect Party.

This is possibly German’s most famous intervention (she was at the time still a member of the SWP as well,

German supported the move to form Respect – The Unity Coalition, which included the SWP and other opponents of the war in Iraq, including Muslim groups and which stood as a left alternative to the Labour Party in elections. At the SWP’s Marxism 2003 event she commented: “I’m in favour of defending gay rights, […] but I am not prepared to have it as a shibboleth, [created by] people who . . . regard the state of Israel as somehow a viable presence.

Here is Counterfire’s latest, warm and cuddly, call to Labour activists.

Is there life outside Labour?

Chris Nineham is a founder member of Stop the War and Counterfire, speaking regularly around the country on behalf of both. He is author of The People Versus Tony Blair and Capitalism and Class Consciousness: the ideas of Georg Lukacs.

 

The immediate problem of course is that Starmer is now following a Blairite directive to destroy the left in the party once and for all. As John McInally says the right is prepared to pursue ‘a scorched earth policy and destroy the party rather that allowing the left to reclaim the party’. Angela Rayner’s outrageous comments at the recent Jewish Labour Movement meeting that she would be prepared to expel thousands of people show that the hostility to Corbynism extends quite far across the Parliamentary Labour Party.

..

Yet,

despite the hard work of many Labour activists, Labour Party branches are unlikely to be the main hubs for building solidarity and active resistance to government attacks. That job will fall to trades union branches, trades councils, solidarity groups and the wider movements like the People’s Assembly (Note, by Counterfire). The strengthening of these extra parliamentary type of institutions has to be a priority.

The actuality of the revolution:

Historically, revolutionaries have almost always played a central role in the big social movements in Britain. The Marxist left has also always made a very important contribution to the process of developing socialist theory and education that Laura so rightly flags up. An estimated 60,000 members have left Labour in anger and frustration since April. More will be leaving over the next weeks and months. As we fight together against the Tories’ attacks, and rally to Corbyn, at some stage I think we will need to come back to the question of a mass, socialist alternative to the Labour Party.

Counterfire, as hard-line Brexiteers, have the gall to claim that socialist internationalists were gulled by Starmer and the People’s Vote into campaigning against Brexit and for a Second Referendum

Here is what one-time George Galloway Bag-man, Kevin Ovenden said recently,

The continuity-Remain campaign was the instrument of turning it against left-led Labour – and having Boris Johnson as prime minister was a small price to pay.

To those genuinely of the left who pressed Remain: you’ve been had.

Be angry. Let’s direct that against this government in collective struggles.

Keir Starmer’s Brexit opportunism

Heaven forefend that those who enabled the Bosses’ Brexit to take place, and went to the ballot box to vote the same way as the hard right, should take a gramme of responsibility for the present disastrous exit from the European Union..

Yes, it was foreseen, and planned, a ‘directive’ from Blairites to destroy the left…

They would have got away with it were it not for those doughty pesky Counterfire stalwarts.

 

Here’s them in action in 2012.

George Galloway MP: Bradford win shows we were right to oppose war

Galloway victory: a landslide against war and austerity

George Galloway has won a sensational victory in the Bradford West by-election with a 10,000 vote majority.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 2, 2020 at 12:39 pm

Factionalism in the time of Coronavirus, Part 2: Counterfire.

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About - Counterfire

Why Indeed Should Anybody Join Them?

Counterfire, for those who do not know, is the principal force in the Stop the War Coalition (StWC) and the People’s Assembly (just about the only group left doing anything in the latter).

They, like the Communist Party of Britain (CPB), have a close relationship with the former Labour leader through the StWC and with Andrew Murray, his former adviser, the  UNITE Chief of Staff, a member of the CPB until 2016. Lindsey German, leading Counterfire member, is the Convenor of the Coalition. Her partner, John Rees, an admirer of György Lukács and the ‘actuality of the revolution’, has been heavily involved in the leadership of the People’s Assembly (Against Austerity).

This is the latest event from the StWC.

IMAGETEXT

Many people on the left are very critical of the StWC, notably for its failure to show real solidarity with those oppressed and murdered by the Assad’s regime in Syria.

They say that that the Coalition has shown no sign of supporting what democratic position there is, and that it’s failure to stand, clearly, with the Kurds fighting the Daesh genociders was unforgivable.

Starmer.

How are Counterfire bearing up after the General Election, a new Labour leader, and the Coronavirus pandemic?

Recently German has been writing – sometimes  useful – articles on the government’s response to the Covid 19 crisis.

A failed government in a failed system – weekly briefing

With Britain having one of the worst records on dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, you might think some caution, humility and even a change of direction might be in order. But as the government stumbles from one failure to another it seems both incapable and unwilling to change course.

But let’s not forget the political stand they have towards the Labour Party.

German also states the following,

So it is very often up to working people themselves to defend conditions – and that means unions. They have many faults – they are often slow and cautious, marked by years of defeat and legal restriction. Their leaders are also content very often to negotiate rather than take more militant action. Their ties to Labour lead them to further caution, and this is likely to get worse under Keir Starmer’s leadership. 

In February the revolutionary socialist groupuscule  instructed the left,

No socialist should vote for Keir Starmer

If Keir Starmer were to win, he would take Labour back to the centre-ground that proved so disastrous for Gordon Brown, Ed Miliband and social democracy across Europe and beyond. He is no friend of the left and no committed socialist should vote for him.

This is how, in April,  they greeted the arrival of Keir Starmer’s leadership of the Labour Party.

Sir Keir Starmer’s deadly crusade: supporting big business and undermining unions – CounterBlast 15 April

This morning the new Labour leader Keir Starmer used an interview on Radio 4’s Today programme to urge the government to provide an exit strategy for the lockdown this week and suggested that schools should be among the first to go back.

It is a signal to the establishment and big business that they can trust Starmer to look out for their interests. And it’s deadly for working-class people.

Starmer’s intervention can only strengthen the government in its desire to return to ‘business as usual’ as soon as possible. No wonder Boris Johnson was so keen to invite him to government meetings – a ‘privilege’ denied of course to Jeremy Corbyn.

By May this had become:

Starmer’s foreign policy and the spirit of Blairism

Blair’s foreign policy represented a ruthless reaffirmation of this Labour tradition as the West’s ambitions expanded in the wake of the Cold War and Russia’s collapse as an imperial power of global weight. Corbyn offered a break with this tradition, inspiring many, but incurring the wrath of the establishment both inside and outside the Party. Starmer now seeks to expunge the very memory of this break. Guided by the spirit of Blairism, his foreign policy is certain to be one the Foreign Office will be only too gratified to call its own.

The hard-line pro-Brexit group has been gloating at the EU’s difficulties.

Covid-19, the crisis and the European ideal

As Europe reels from being the centre of the Covid-19 outbreak, the EU is creaking at the seams and may not recover, argues Martin Hall.

Leninism.

German has the merit of  being open about her Leninist politics.

This is an example (April 21st).

The Dilemmas of Lenin

Written to mark the one hundredth anniversary of the Russian revolution, Tariq Ali’s book also speaks to those of us involved in contemporary politics here in Britain. A new politics has been unleashed with the electoral advances of Jeremy Corbyn and widespread revulsion at the consequences of neoliberalism, epitomised most strongly by the Grenfell Tower disaster. This era is opening up a new interest in political discussion, and with it a real thirst to know how the left can achieve its aims against the vested interests of the few, aims which cannot be achieved through parliamentary legislation but will require the systematic transformation of society.

In this debate, people will return to past experiences of working-class history, including the Russian revolution – which changed the history of the twentieth century – and to the ideas of the Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin. In doing so they will hopefully see past the distortions on both right and left which have so obscured and sometimes vilified that history, and see the incredibly brave, prescient and committed politics which made Russia the powerhouse of revolution.

It is hard to see what kind of role Counterfire will have in the coming months.

Serious articles, and some interventions around the pandemic, enter a crowded field.

Their political moment has passed.

There is not going to be a new Corbyn in the foreseeable future.

The role of opposition to Starmer inside the Labour Party is already taken by other small groups like the LRC and he cartel in “For a Broad Left Network“, some of whose members are not known to be friendly towards Countefire.

They have nothing to say about the fight in Momentum between Forward and Renewal factions,not to mention pro-European Momentum Internationalists. (1)

Finally we note that Counterfire has not responded to the CPB’s call for a new Popular Front involving the People’s Assembly.

*******

More on this: Undemocratic, backroom politics. Sacha Ismael. 

May the 18th.

A new grouping, Forward Momentum, is in conflict with those who run the Momentum office (which means, in Momentum as currently constituted, run the organisation). The office people seem to be supporting a counter-initiative, Momentum Renewal. Both will run candidates in the imminent National Coordinating Group elections.