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Posts Tagged ‘Stop the War Coalition

Christchurch Massacre, Some Bad Responses from the Left.

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Incredibly moving: New Zealand mosque shooting: Children perform impromptu haka in tribute to murdered classmates

Would that we could say the same about the response from some on the British left.

“It seems beyond doubt that what did motivate the killer”, writes Lindsey German, the Convener of the Stop the War Coalition, “and his potential accomplices was precisely the ideology of fascism and far right ideas, which have at their centre the scapegoating of minorities of various sorts, but also the destruction of any kind of left political presence, the eradication of the trade unions, and the promotion of ‘white culture’ as superior to any other.”

We get no further than these recycled truisms,  in describing the ideas behind this murder’s attack in Socialist Worker, “He declared himself an “eco-fascist” most inspired by Oswald Mosley, leader of the British Union of Fascists in the 1930s.” Tomáš Tengely-Evans

While the SWP blames a “climate of Islamophobia” German puts the origins in capitalism, which apparently, always has a “pre-eminent form of racism”. Without explaining how private ownership and the free market, or neo-liberalism,  selected this form, the Counterfire leader  continues, ” the mainstream politicians and media who have spent the last decade and more attacking Muslims on a regular basis, decrying their dress and eating habits, declaring them subscribers to a uniquely violent and pro-terrorist religion, and using the horrific grooming cases to attribute blame to Muslim men in general.” The conclusion, “Islamophobia is encouraged and sometimes orchestrated by states, governments, police forces, and in this sense is the major racism in Europe and North America.”  (Capitalism always has a pre-eminent form of racism; it’s our task to identify, locate and defeat it, argues Lindsey German.)

The massacre in Christchurch is, to German,  the product of Islamophobia. – fear of Islam, a religion.

Apparently this  is “no accident”.

Are we surprised when all this happens that some of the filth becomes a motivator for those who are willing to use physical violence to kill Muslims, and to justify it in the name of the ‘clash of civilisations’ or ‘preserving western culture’? Are we surprised also when, having waged war on Muslim countries for close on two decades, western societies have to demonise the people whose countries they have invaded and occupied?

One of the best known faces of the Stop the War Coalition  therefore dispenses with the need to look at the ideology of Brenton Tarrant, he is just the vehicle of greater forces. The Great Replacement, the ‘anti-imperialist’ Red-Brown Identitarian ideas of the killer (very far from reducible to concern about Islam), are, ignored. For the SWP,  his ideas, after being related to Oswald Mosley by the SWP, are, equally reduced to the “climate” of hostility, not just to people, but to a religion.

While it the way they underlined ideology seemed a step forward to see ideas being taken seriously, as a material force, two steps backwards for German and it’s all down to capitalism.

But how exactly does capitalism generate hatred of Muslims?

The revolutionary socialist will doubtless reply that Islamophobia is a product of Western military interventions, which are, it goes without saying, led by capitalist countries. Few would even begin to account for prejudices, or organised hatred,, such as anti-Semitism, in such terms.

Above all can the present clashes in the Middle East be understood through the classical ‘anti-imperialist’ angle?

Let’s take the most recent case: is the Assad regime and the civil war in Syria a product of the ‘West’?

Rohini Hensman suggests that the attempt to overthrow Assad by democratically inspired revolt, is key:

 …neo-Stalinist anti-imperialists and their followers refused to treat the Syrian revolution on par with the Egyptian revolution, although both were part of the wave of Arab uprisings. Instead, they assimilated it to the model of ‘regime change’ employed by the US in Iraq! This is a position that reeks of racism: Apparently Syrians are backward savages incapable of wanting to throw off a brutal regime that was looting and oppressing them, and therefore the uprising must have been orchestrated by Obama using ISIS, which he sponsored. This was the story peddled by Assad’s and Putin’s media and repeated by Trump, and, in a watered-down version by the likes of Seumas Milne, who, I recently discovered, was part of a hardcore Stalinist faction in the CPGB which welcomed Soviet tanks in Czechoslovakia. The same media are behind the demonisation of the White Helmets, the rescue workers digging survivors out of the rubble after bombing raids by Syrian and Russian warplanes.

Inconsistent Anti-Imperialism, Selective Solidarity

German’s Stop the War Coalition (StWC) dutifully reflected the Seumas Milne Line.

If that’s not enough to morally disqualify them,  German completely ignores the independent agency of the Kurds, who, without any other help, have called on US aid, to defeat the Islamist genociders of the Islamic State.

A little bit of modesty would lead her, and her comrades, to reflect on the victims of these people, perhaps the Yazidis.

The book  Long Shot: My Life As a Sniper in the Fight Against ISIS (2019) by  Azad Cudi is a heartbreaking, account of resistance to the Jihadist murderers by the Kurdish fighters, from the embattled heroism of the defenders of Kobanî to the present day fight in what is now the  Syrian Democratic Forces SDF.

This lonely fight continues, under the immediate threat of Turkish and now Syrian army attack.

German might have a sliver of credibility if she took account of the autonomous struggle of such heroic people against the Islamist genociders.

Would she even dare..

All we have got to hear the same old line, already churned out so many times in the past it’s easy to know it.

This what German said about the London and Manchester Jihadist murders in 2017.

This climate of racism here in the UK, and elsewhere in Europe, is only helping to create a vicious circle where Islamophobia leads to a growth in extremism and terrorism, which in turn leads to more Islamophobia. It is a circle which can only be broken by a concerted campaign against both war and Islamophobia.

War, Terrorism & Islamophobia: Breaking The Vicious Circle. Lindsey German

In other words, it’s not the fault of the terrorist murderers, but of Islamophobia and Western interventions.

We have to campaign against “war” – including the Kurdish resistance? – and hostility to a religion.

Nothing about the need for building solidarity amongst the peoples of the world, nothing about being against all racism, including that of the Islamist genociders.

The following looks a better way to begin to look at some of these issues,.

In discussing Rohini Hensman’s book Ralph Leonard says,

In her final section, Rohini offers some suggestions as to how to fight back against the scourge of neo-Stalinism and neo-fascism and form an alternative, independent and more consistent democratic and internationalist politics: by pursuing and telling the truth; bringing morality and humanity back into politics; reasserting the value of the global struggle for democracy; placing internationalism center stage and pressuring global institutions like the UN to promote human rights and democracy.

I agree with all of this. My only minor criticism would be that we should not rely on international institutions like the EU and the UN to be agents of social and political change. These institutions, as they currently exist, are not fit for purpose and need to be radically changed, or replaced with alternative institutions born of popular struggles. Nevertheless, I very much agree with Hensman, particularly about the importance of internationalism. In this second age of globalization, capitalism is a well and truly global phenomenon and the economies of nations are more integrated than ever before. This means that any potential progressive anti-capitalist movement would also have to be a global movement, especially since an international working class now truly exists, far more so than in the days of Marx and Engels.

Book Review: “Indefensible” by Rohini Hensman – The Left and “pseudo anti-imperialism”

 

 

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On Louis Proyect’s The Rhetoric of Anti-Imperialism and the European left.

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Idlib, Syria: Thousands protest peacefully against Assad’s war, Friday 14 September.

Louis Proyect has just published this article (in Counterpunch), of significance not only in the US but for the European left, and across the word.

On the Rhetoric of Anti-Imperialism.

Beginning with an overview  of “Rohini Hensman’s recently published Indefensible: Democracy, Counterrevolution, and the Rhetoric of Anti-Imperialism” it extends to a wider series of reflections.

Project tunes into some of the key ethical and political problems, thrown up by a number of intense  conflicts across the world since 2011 and the response of various parts of the left to them.

In each of them the politics of an ‘anti-imperialism’, limited to opposing the ‘West’ (and de facto backing, amongst others, Assad’s regime, Putin and , though he mentions this to a much lesser degree, Iran) has been called into question.

Rohini Hensman’s recently published Indefensible: Democracy, Counterrevolution, and the Rhetoric of Anti-Imperialism is an important contribution to the debate that has divided the left since 2011, the year that Syria became a litmus test. For some, support for Bashar al-Assad became tantamount to backing Franco in the Spanish Civil War while others saw my perspective as lending support to the USA, Israel, Saudi Arabia and other reactionary states carrying out the same neoconservative foreign policy that turned Iraq into a failed state.

In other respects, he observes that on a range of social and economic issues the US left was united (“ranging from defending immigrant rights to opposing fracking),at the start of the decade.

But, “The polarization deepened in 2014 when the Euromaidan protest became litmus test number two.”

“As was the case with Syria, the overwhelming majority of the left sided with Yanukovych who was seen as a progressive leader ousted by a coup organized and funded by the CIA. When war broke out in eastern Ukraine, the Kremlin-backed militias were freedom fighters while Kyiv became a tool of NATO and Western banks. Trying to avoid such geopolitical dualities became difficult, if not impossible.”

This could equally be seen here. The left (with at least some hope of a wider political influence than the US left, which was increasing after Ed Miliband began his Labour leadership)  has in general terms  been united on issues such as anti-austerity. This has parallels across Europe, although since that time the EU (UK) or sovereigntism has become  dividing lines.

It was during the Ukraine crisis that the same divisions over international issues, as in the US, became serious.

There was (lightly covered) with support for Putin and the Russian Federation’s claims  from the Morning Star, and the Stop the War Coalition (Counterfire-led) – a position not reflected so widely in the rest of Europe outside of the direct inheritors of the Stalinist parties – but also present.

Here is their activity in sharp focus,

Solidarity with the Antifascist Resistance in Ukraine’ launched in London Socialist Appeal. 2014

Lindsey German (Counterfire), Boris Kagarlitsky (Institute for globalization studies and social movements), Andrew Murray (Communist Party of Britain), Alan Woods (International Marxist Tendency) and Sergei Kirichuk (Borotba) discuss the threat of fascism in Ukraine, the role of imperialism in the current situation and the need for a campaign in support of the antifascist resistance in Ukraine to provide a counterweight to the lies and distortions of the Western media.

Then there is the Middle East, where unity over opposition to the Invasion of Iraq began to crack, above all as the Arab Spring brought forth a movement for democracy against the Assad dictatorship.

Proyect talks of Syria, the cause of whose people he has been a consistent champion.

He cites US writers who have sided with Assad (and not, odd as it may seem, the worst of the red-brown Assad apologists….)

For Syrians, the notion put forward by Stephen Gowans et al that Syria was some sort of socialist utopia rivaling if not besting Kurdish Rojava was a cruel joke. Hensman writes:

Finally, it is an irony that people who see themselves as socialists fail to note the class dimension of the uprising. Janine di Giovanni provides a vivid description of the Damascus elite who support Assad: “[In June 2012,] for several weeks running, I watched the fevered hedonism of the Thursday afternoon pool parties at the Dama Rose Hotel … By lunchtime, women were rushing to hairdressers; the roads leading out of the city … were clogged with luxury cars … Restaurants such as Narenj, which … served traditional Arabic food to the elite, were still packed.” (di Giovanni 2016, 8). By contrast, in 2007 a third of Syrians were living beneath the poverty line, with nearly another third only slightly above this level. Swiss-Syrian socialist activist and scholar Joseph Daher (2016) writes that “even the regime-controlled Syrian General Federation of Trade Unions deplored in 2009 that “the rich have become richer and the poor poorer … (and) low income earners who make up 80 percent of the Syrian population are looking for additional work to support themselves”. He continues, “We must not forget that the popular revolution in Syria began as a result of social economic injustices and widespread poverty, in addition to political issues.”

This is the crucial, the crunch point: his summary of what’s facing people in Syria now:

We are now in the final hours of the seven-year ordeal in which attempts to restore the democratic values of Hourani’s government have been crushed by overwhelming air power and massive intervention by Iran, Hezbollah and Afghan mercenaries. The looming victory against “imperialism” leaves the country in shambles with dismal economic prospects and inescapable environmental disaster.

He continues, looking at the “campists” now backing, more or less openly, Assad.

A certain political myopia exists in such quarters. Despite their anti-fascist pretensions, they cannot fathom how Assad’s victory will strengthen reaction throughout the Middle East and Europe. In an interview on Portuguese television, General al-Sisi stated: “The priority is that we support the national armies to impose control over the territory, deal with the extremists, and impose the necessary stability in Libya, Syria and Iraq.” When the interviewer followed up with “When you refer to the National Army in Syria, do you mean the Syrian army?”, the General replied: “Yes.”

In  Proyect’s conclusion he suggests that capitalists, and those states who wish for  Assad’s victory, have their own interests at heart.

Hardly a surprising claim but can this be extended to speculation that a bloc is being formed out of “With Assad, al-Sisi, Putin and Haftar” in a “new axis of resistance against Islamists” or, even more speculatively, “would anybody be surprised that Netanyahu would apply for membership?2

One can only note that Louis’s belief that Boris Johnson is still UK foreign Secretary is one, amongst many reasons to doubt the emergence of such an alliance. And there is a leap from a certain support for Libya’s Hafter to….Assad, and Putin, Israel, Macron….. which is hard to jump. (“In July, Haftar met with an Israeli intelligence officer in Amman, to “deepen security coordination between him and Israel”. Not only does Haftar have these considerable forces in his corner, he can also rely on the backing of France’s President Emmanuel Macron and the UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, as well as the United Arab Emirates.”).

The conclusion is, nevertheless, worth serious reflection:

 In all their heartfelt objection to imperialism, Assad’s supporters on the left seemed to have forgotten that Lenin wrote a book titled “Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism”. If you forget about the capitalism part of his analysis, you don’t get very far.

One cannot imagine that Iran (whose capitalist rather than geopolitical and religious-ideological interest, if there is one, which it far from sure,  goes unmentioned) and Putin’s Russian Federation, have backed Assad out of a wish to strengthen a multipolar world contesting American dominance purely out of hearty anti-imperialist good will. The extent to which religious ideology as a material force in the conflicts remains unclarified, but who can seriously doubt that it plays a substantial role in these wars.

While one is certain that much of the US left, anxious at all times to distance itself from any hint of support for its own imperialist military machine, has good reason to be wary of its state’s involvement.

But today this is of utmost urgence: 

Indefensible: Idlib and the left Leila Al-Shami

Communist Party of Britain-Marxist Leninist (CPGB -ML) and Stop the War Coalition on the Trump/Kim Jong Un Meeting.

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Image result for CPGB-ML Harpal Brar discusses DPRK on BBC’s primetime The One Show
 

On BBC’s One Show. Really…

On Monday 11 June, CPGB-ML chairman Harpal Brar joined guests on the BBC’s primetime One Show to discuss the historic meeting between US President Trump and Marshall Kim Jong Un, chairman of the Workers Party of Korea, in Singapore this week.On this video, you can see both the package that was broadcast by BBC One and the rest of the comments made by Comrade Brar during the course of the hour-long recording session.As the only person in the room supporting the people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK),

Comrade Brar put a strong and persuasive case in favour of the Korean people, their government and their hopes for peace and reconciliation on the Korean peninsula. Contrary to years of hysterical hyperbole demonising the north, its socialist system and its leaders, journalists in the capitalist press are now having to concede that the DPRK’s decision to arm itself with a nuclear deterrent was a wise one, and that the leadership of Comrade Kim Jong Un and the Workers Party of Korea (WPK) has been anything but ‘crazy’.For our part, we have always fully upheld the Korean people’s right to work for peace and reunification without outside interference. It is US imperialism that stands in the way of this strong desire of the masses of both the north and the south of Korea, not the DPRK government, which has long pursued a policy of striving towards reunification.

That is why one of the most popular slogans of the WPK and the DPRK masses for decades has been and remains:
Korea is One!

This is closest we’ll get in Britain to the DPRK’s response.

It is laughable but Harpel Brar is seen strutting around – unchallenged – on most London left demonstrations.

Some on the left are more concerned with what they claim are “regime change” plans for North Korea than about the reality of this tyranny.

Just before the summit (11th of June) the Morning Star was issuing warnings on this theme:

Nagging doubt hang over Trump’s talks with North Korean leader

But, until reality dictates otherwise, a nagging doubt remains that Washington — especially the plethora of neoconservative cold warriors surrounding the president — has something more sinister in mind.

The likes of John Bolton and Mike Pompeo find it difficult to talk in anything but ultimatums, demanding “the Libya model” as the basis for Pyongyang’s agreement to renounce its nuclear weapons programme.

After the summit this was their response:

Trump and Kim agree to work towards the denuclearisation of Korea

While the global response to the meeting has been largely positive, Iran warned North Korea against trusting the US after Mr Trump recently pulled out of the 2015 international nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions on Tehran last month.

John Rees of the Stop the War Coalition takes the regime change angle equally seriously while dismissing depth of the concluding agreement,

Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing.

What does the Trump-Kim summit mean? Not much, says John Rees.

We may all welcome the retreat from earlier war-mongering rhetoric but this deal will not preclude it’s sudden return because there’s nothing of substance in it.

Kim Jong Un must be laughing all the way to the DMZ. In a single bound he’s escaped from the dunce’s corner of international relations and now bestrides the world as, well, if not quite a colossus, then at least the admired ally of the most powerful head of state in the world.

…..

What Trump has actually done is to tear up a functioning nuclear deal with Iran and replace it with a meaningless multilateralist statement of intent with North Korea.

We may all welcome the retreat from earlier war-mongering rhetoric but this deal will not preclude it’s sudden return because there’s nothing of substance in it.

Kim Jong Un must be laughing all the way to the DMZ. In a single bound he’s escaped from the dunce’s corner of international relations and now bestrides the world as, well, if not quite a colossus, then at least the admired ally of the most powerful head of state in the world.

China too will be relieved that any likely further pressure to contain their ally has just sharply decreased.

The real lessons of the circus in Singapore are two-fold.

One, this is another episode in the decline of US power. The initiative was taken out of US hands when North and South Korea began another round of détente at the Olympic games and it has never regained it. Trump has merely managed to grandstand on a stage that he neither created nor on which does he control the action.

Two, the age of populist leaders is an age in which foreign policy goals are determined as much by domestic campaigning priorities as by traditional international relations strategy. US Presidents are supposed to at least make a show of pursuing goals agreed on by the entire foreign policy elite, otherwise known as the ‘national interest’. Trump isn’t interested in that, although he sometimes has that approach forced on him by the wider US power structure.

…..

If there is one thing more dangerous than a US President following the dictates of the foreign policy elite, as Bush did with the Project for the New American Century, it’s a President following his own mercurial interpretation of what viewers of Fox news think is a good idea. But that is where US economic decline wedded to overwhelming military power, plus the aftermath of defeat in Iraq, has brought us.

In other words Trump is still a danger.

There remain three principal points to make:

  • North Korea, the DPRK, is a totalitarian tyranny. Yet, “Trump seemed to play down the severity of human rights violations in North Korea. “It’s rough,” Trump allowed after being asked about North Korea’s human rights record. He then said: “It’s rough in a lot of places, by the way. Not just there.” (Kim Tong-Hyung). We did not expect the CPGB (M-L) to mention this either, but Rees, acting as a chess strategist on the world stage, fails to tackle the issues which the New York Times has just summed up as “Atrocities Under Kim Jong-un: Indoctrination, Prison Gulags, Executions”. Perhaps these are more important than the “decline of US power.
  • On the DPRK some parts of the left have a serious analysis. Shiraz reposts a piece from the US Socialist Worker by David Whitehouse. It says, “During a period of famine in the 1990s, Kim’s father looked the other way while Northern citizens developed private markets for farm produce and other goods. If Kim Jong-un really shifts resources away from military investment, North Koreans can look forward to making even more money from their private efforts.Meanwhile, soon after coming to power in 2012, Kim embarked on structural economic reforms that provide freedom to managers at the enterprise level — freedom to hire and fire at will, set wages at variance with national guidelines, and cultivate their own suppliers and buyers without going through the national planning process.

    These reforms, which mirror the early measures of Chinese economic liberalization in the 1980s, have promoted the development of a new middle class, at least somewhat independent of the ruling party hierarchy. This group definitely has an interest in Kim following through with diplomatic engagement that can open the economy even further.

    North Korea’s working class is overwhelmingly poor. Anecdotal reports, including from asylum-seekers who make it into South Korea, suggest that workers harbor intense hatred toward the rich upper layers of the party hierarchy and toward residents of the city of Pyongyang, where wealth is concentrated.

    To some extent, Kim seems to be able to use the popular cult of the Kim family to deflect popular anger away from himself — and toward those just a few layers below him. Right now, says North Korea specialist Andrei Lankov, “Kim Jong-un is popular. Everyone supports him.”

    Kim wants to keep it that way. The burden of domestic expectations has helped drive him toward the Singapore summit, where he hopes that de-escalation of hostility with the U.S. will bring relief from sanctions — and open up export possibilities, access to international finance, and investment from countries such as China and South Korea.

  • If Rees suggests that ‘populism’ is now the engine of US foreign policy, does this mean that Trump tore  up the Nuclear deal with Iran to please Fox News watchers? What exactly does the term American imperialism mean if instead of “military industrial” interests we have crowd pleasing as the motor of decision-making? Does it mean that ‘anti-imperialism’ now signifies fighting the mob and its leader’s “sound and fury”?

It may well be that there will be less than a massive response in London to a Stop Trump protest against the US President who’s a”walking shadow, a poor player,that struts and frets his hour upon the stage.”

Opposing the Air Strikes on Syria; Solidarity with Democratic and Progressive forces against Assad.

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Against Air-Strikes; Against Assad.

It is far from clear what is the best position to take faced with the hecatomb of the Syrian civil war.

Few can reasonably argue that a few military strikes are going to end the horrors, or that a full-scale invasion is either about to take place, or would help anybody.

If a sentence could sum up the stand of many of us on the left it’s the one put forward by the group Socialist Resistance. 

Don’t bomb Syria – No support for Assad.

As  Joseph Daher points out: The butcher Assad’s regime is “a despotic, capitalist and patrimonial state ruling through violent repression and using various policies such as sectarianism, tribalism, conservatism, and racism to dominate society”. No socialist can support it.

But neither can socialists support imperialist intervention against it. A US led coalition could only bring the regime down by sending in large numbers of troops, a move that would condemn the country to a worse hell than that inflicted on Iraq, in a regional and political situation which is even more volatile. The regrettable fact is that the secular and democratic forces which tried to bring down Assad have been seriously weakened, benefiting the Islamic fundamentalist and jihadist forces on the ground. A settlement based on aggression by the French, Americans, British and their regional supporters will do nothing but create a worse sectarian and ethnic bloodbath.

In more detail the Fourth International publication International Viewpoint explains (“Our Destinies are Linked”: Joseph Daher on the Syrian Revolution.)

How should the internationalist left respond to calls from some Syrians and Kurds for assistance from the United States military?

There is definitely no easy answer, especially when people are getting massacred on one side and, on the other, the USA has no willingness of any regime change in Syria, as has been the case since the beginning of the uprising, or, as we saw, to stop the Turkish intervention against the Kurds in Afrin.

Today the main issue is really demanding the end of the war, an end to all military interventions and guaranteeing rights for the civilians. I expanded on this issue in the last question.

However, while disagreeing with groups demanding military interventions, we should still maintain our solidarity with all the democratic and progressive forces in Syria as well as the Kurdish socialist and democratic forces that resist against the two actors of the counter revolution: the Assad regime on one side and the jihadist and Islamic reactionary forces on the other side.

From this perspective, what we can argue is that it is necessary to defend a local dynamic of self-defense rather than increasing the stranglehold of imperialism, and therefore we should also support the provision of weapons and arms to these democratic forces in the region to combat both counter-revolutionary forces. These are important element that could empower the democratic and progressive forces on the ground and give them the tools to defend themselves.

For the people who don’t feel at ease with the fact of demanding arms and weapons with no political conditions and strings attached from the West, I would like to invite them to read Trotsky’s “Learn to Think.” [2]

This does not mean of course that we are uncritical of the leadership of these groups that have such demands, and we should maintain our independence and critical opinions, even when dealing with them.

We have to be clear that imperialist actors and regional powers all act according to an imperialist logic that maintains authoritarian and unjust systems. They all oppose the self-determination of the peoples of the region and their struggles for emancipation. Hence, anti-war activists whether in the Middle East or the West need to address all forms of repression and authoritarianism, and condemn all forms of foreign intervention against the interests of the people of the region.

Joseph Daher continues,

What are some direct actions that anti-fascists and anti-authoritarians can take in solidarity with the Syrian people, including those being massacred in Ghouta, Idlib, and Afrin?

Multiple things should be done. I think anti-fascists and anti-authoritarians should call for an end to the war, which has created terrible suffering. It has led to massive displacement of people within the country and driven millions out of it as refugees. The war only benefits the counterrevolutionary forces on all sides. From both a political and humanitarian perspective, the end of the war in Syria is an absolute necessity.

Likewise, we must reject all the attempts to legitimize Assad’s regime, and we must oppose all agreements that enable it to play any role in the country’s future. A blank check given to Assad today will encourage future attempts by other despotic and authoritarian states to crush their populations if they come to revolt.

We have to guarantee as well the rights of civilians within Syria, particularly preventing more forced displacements and securing the rights of refugees (right of return, right for financial compensations in case of destruction of their houses, justice for the losses of their relatives, etc.).

Assad and his various partners in the regime must be held accountable for their crimes. The same goes for the Islamic fundamentalist and jihadist forces and other armed groups.

We need to support the democratic and progressive actors and movements against both sides of the counterrevolution: the regime and its Islamic fundamentalist opponents. We have to build a united front based on the initial objectives of the revolution: democracy, social justice, and equality, saying no to sectarianism and no to racism.

We of course need to oppose all imperialist and authoritarian actors intervening in Syria.

Effectively the same position is taken by the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty and others:

One theme that has caused great concern on the left is the absence of any clear condemnation of Assad from the main anti-war groups.

Supporters of Counterfire, a split from the Socialist Workers Party, which has paddled in the ocean of revolution but found its home in the safer pond of British pressure group politics, occupies leading positions in the Stop the War Coalition (StWC).

Lindsey German is a member of Counterfire and the national convenor of the Stop the War Coalition.

The StWC claims to oppose Assad. But her most recent article on the anti-war movement does not find the time to mention “the butchery” of the Assad regime” once.

A primed anti-war movement finds the new warmongers much the same as the old warmongers, writes Lindsey German.

April the 16th.

The strikes carried out by the US Britain and France this weekend have achieved nothing in terms of stopping the suffering of the Syrian people or of making the world a safer place. They are purely a gesture to show that western imperialism can ‘punish’ Russia and Syria, and to help determine the outcome of the war in Syria.

…….

Western imperialism has no clear strategy except more lashing out with little purpose – which is the net effect of this latest attack. The unintended consequence of the war in Iraq has been the strengthening of Iran. The failed strategy of regime change in Syria has also strengthened Iran. So now Iran will move to centre stage.

Donald Trump has appointed advisers, especially Secretary of State John Bolton, who are neocon hawks determined to overthrow the Iranian government. Next month Trump wants to move the US embassy to Jerusalem and to tear up the Iran nuclear deal – both likely to prove major flash points in the Middle East.

And Russia? Politicians and commentators are sighing with relief that they have managed to pull off a strike that was weak enough to avoid direct conflict with Russia. But the tensions between the powers are worse than at any time since the Cold War, and we have nuclear powers involved in clashes in a cockpit of war.

We live in dangerous times and this strike just made them more dangerous.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

April 17, 2018 at 12:43 pm

The Anti-Imperialism of Idiots.

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The ‘anti-imperialism’ of idiots

This morning I was struck, listening to Europe 1 to hear people in Syria, including Kurds, saying that they welcomed bombs on Assad’s military resources, though they doubted that the present air strikes would have any real effect.

Amongst other thoughts were the need to respond to this criticism in the Guardian,

Labour calls for the attack on Douma to be “fully investigated”. That sounds unarguable. But then what? Jeremy Corbyn issued the same call after the chemical attack that killed at least 74 at Khan Sheikhoun a year ago: demanding there be a “UN investigation and those responsible be held to account”. The UN duly investigated and in October concluded unambiguously that the Assad regime had used sarin gas. But Corbyn greeted that verdict with silence. So unless there’s a plan for action once guilt is established, demanding an investigation sounds a lot like an excuse to do nothing in the hope that soon we’ll all be talking about something else.

And then, the nature of the Syrian civil war and the anti-war movement comes up….

Not to mention the complexities of the far from admirable leadership of  East Ghoutta:

La Ghouta orientale, tombeau de la révolution syrienne  (Le Monde yesterday).

Les exactions des insurgés et le siège cruel imposé par le régime de Bachar Al-Assad ont provoqué la chute de cette ancienne oasis agricole, située aux portes de la capitale Damas.

The abuses by the insurgents and the Assad regimes cruel siege have brought down the old agricultural oasis located at the doors of Damascus, the Syrian capital.

This has to be read in full.  The Anti-Imperialism of Idiots.

A British Syrian whose been  involved in human rights and social justice struggles in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East since 2000.

I was a founding member of Tahrir-ICN a network connecting anti-authoritarian struggles across the Middle East, North Africa and Europe.

Co-author (with Robin Yassin-Kassab) of Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War (Jan 2016)

Contributor to Alford, Wilson (eds): Khiyana-Daesh, the Left and the Unmaking of the Syrian Revolution(April 2016)

These paragraphs are particularly important.

Once more the western ‘anti-war’ movement has awoken to mobilise around Syria. This is the third time since 2011. The first was when Obama contemplated striking the Syrian regime’s military capability (but didn’t) following chemical attacks on the Ghouta in 2013, considered a ‘red line’. The second time was when Donald Trump ordered a strike which hit an empty regime military base in response to chemical attacks on Khan Sheikhoun in 2017. And today, as the US, UK and France take limited military action (targeted strikes on regime military assets and chemical weapons facilities) following a chemical weapons attack in Douma which killed at least 34 people, including many children who were sheltering in basements from bombing.

The first thing to note from the three major mobilisations of the western ‘anti-war’ left is that they have little to do with ending the war. More than half a million Syrians have been killed since 2011. The vast majority of civilian deaths have been through the use of conventional weapons and 94 per cent of these victims were killed by the Syrian-Russian-Iranian alliance. There is no outrage or concern feigned for this war, which followed the regime’s brutal crackdown on peaceful, pro-democracy demonstrators. There’s no outrage when barrel bombs, chemical weapons and napalm are dropped on democratically self-organized communities or target hospitals and rescue workers. Civilians are expendable; the military capabilities of a genocidal, fascist regime are not. In fact the slogan ‘Hands off Syria’ really means ‘Hands off Assad’ and support is often given for Russia’s military intervention. This was evident yesterday at a demonstration organized by Stop the War UK where a number of regime and Russian flags were shamefully on display.

I no longer have an answer. I’ve consistently opposed all foreign military intervention in Syria, supported Syrian led process to rid their country of a tyrant and international processes grounded in efforts to protect civilians and human rights and ensure accountability for all actors responsible for war-crimes. A negotiated settlement is the only way to end this war – and still seems as distant as ever. Assad (and his backers) are determined to thwart any process, pursue a total military victory and crush any remaining democratic alternative. Hundreds of Syrians are being killed every week in the most barbaric ways imaginable. Extremist groups and ideologies are thriving in the chaos wrought by the state. Civilians continue to flee in their thousands as legal processes – such as Law No.10 – are implemented to ensure they will never return to their homes. The international system itself is collapsing under the weight of its own impotence. The words ‘Never Again’ ring hollow. There’s no major people’s movement which stands in solidarity with the victims. They are instead slandered, their suffering is mocked or denied, and their voices either absent from discussions or questioned by people far away, who know nothing of Syria, revolution or war, and who arrogantly believe they know what is best. It is this desperate situation which causes many Syrians to welcome the US, UK and France’s action and who now see foreign intervention as their only hope, despite the risks they know it entails.

One thing is for sure – I won’t lose any sleep over targeted strikes aimed at regime military bases and chemical weapons plants which may provide Syrians with a short respite from the daily killing. And I will never see people who place grand narratives over lived realities, who support brutal regimes in far off countries, or who peddle racism, conspiracy theories and atrocity denial, as allies.

Here is one outstanding idiot:

The far-right in Europe is against the air strikes:

From the French left (notably Jean-Luc Mélenchon) to parts of the right and the far-right (including Philpott’s split from Marine Le Pen’s party) there is opposition to the air-strikes.

Le chef de file de la France Insoumise, comme une partie de la droite et de l’extrême-droite a vivement critiqué samedi les frappes menées contre le régime syrien Libération.

The leader of the mainstream right party, les Républicains,  Laurent Wauquiez, has expressed doubts about the use and the objectives of the airstrikes (Syrie : Laurent Wauquiez ne comprend “ni l’utilité ni le sens des frappes punitives“)

Response?

Don’t bomb Syria – No support for Assad

Socialist Resistance.

they will not force Assad out of power. Indeed it is not clear that the imperialist powers want to see an end to this barbarous regime and certainly they are opposed to self-determination for the people of Syria.

The entire Labour Party must back Corbyn in his opposition to more bombing and war and we should make sure that party banners are highly visible at demonstrations opposing military intervention. We need to be demanding an end to the war and all foreign interventions, including those on behalf of Assad from Russia, Iran and Hezbollah. We must continue to offer political and material support to the secular and democratic opponents of the dictatorship and Labour must call on European governments to offer sanctuary to Syrian refugees.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

April 15, 2018 at 10:44 am

Oppose the Attacks on Syria, Oppose Marching with Assad Supporters.

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Can the left March with Assad Supporters?

Then there is the latest tweet from this:

 

Iran, the other prop of Assad with Putin, is a theocratic Islamist dictatorship with a  blood-stained record.

Its own militias (Islamic Revolutionary Guard CorpsQods For) and Lebanese allies, Hezbollah, are fighting for their own religious and political interests.

Or daily papers of the left (Morning Star)  that publish this:

Russia claims it has ‘irrefutable’ evidence chemical attack was staged by foreign intelligence.

MOSCOW claimed today to have “irrefutable” evidence that an alleged chemical attack in Syria was staged by foreign intelligence agents pursuing a “Russophobic campaign.”

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a press conference that an unnamed country was leading a campaign against Russia.

“We have irrefutable evidence that it was another staging and the special services of a state which is in the forefront of the Russophobic campaign had a hand in the staging,” he said.

Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov accused Britain of staging the attack.

“We have … evidence that proves Britain was directly involved in organising this provocation,” he said.

Mr Lavrov warned that a strike against Syria risked a similar outcome to previous wars in Libya and Iraq.

Not to mention this a few days earlier.

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Written by Andrew Coates

April 14, 2018 at 12:17 pm

Stop the War Coalition cites 9/11 Truther Nafeez Ahmed to Explain Crisis with Russia.

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Image result for nafeez ahmed rt

Nafeez Ahmed: 9/11 “alleged hijackers had trained in US military installations in the 1990s, and even had connections to the CIA and DEA.”

The Stop the War Coalition (StWC) asks, Has the West Provoked the Crisis With Russia?

Fired up by anti-Russian hype, many commentators seem to have forgotten the need to question basic facts about the Skripal incident, let alone to probe the official account of the crisis between Russia and the West. They might do well to read a recently published US army study ominously titled ‘Is the Next Global Conflict Imminent?’.

The Newshounds of the StWC have found the  answer: Yes.

The report shows that US military experts understand perfectly that it is Western foreign policy that is the main driver of tension and confrontation with Russia.

Knock me down with a feather!

This is the low-down,

Dethroning Putin?

Mostly however, the document concentrates on further actions that could be useful in destabilising and undermining Russian power. In places it goes as far as suggesting regime change. Russians, the document observes:

“…may soon feel the pressure of the domestic downturn. They will become increasingly vulnerable as the ruble weakens and the purchasing power at home erodes. Are the west and the US poised to take advantage of this or will we miss another opportunity?”

And later:

“The US and the West need to determine what they want Russia to look like, how they want it to behave and if they care if Vladimir Putin is president.”

Nineham concludes

This combination of military threat and great power manoeuvring has created the most dangerous geopolitical standoff in a generation. Not really the moment then for the kind of posturing and point-scoring we have seen from Theresa May, the Tories and elements of the Labour right in the last few days.

Thanks to Nafeez Ahmed for unearthing this document.

And what did this Newshound find out?

Army document: US strategy to ‘dethrone’ Putin for oil pipelines might provoke WW3Nafeez Ahmed

Senior DIA, Air Force and Army officials admit that NATO expansionism and US covert interference in Russian internal politics may trigger “next global conflict”…

Here are some more of Ahmed’s recent ‘investigative journalism’.

The UK government is manufacturing its nerve agent case for ‘action’ on Russia

Official claim that ‘Novichok’ points solely to Russia discredited

By Nafeez Ahmed.

He also cites this,

According to former British diplomat Craig Murray, for instance, it is more reasonable to cast the net of suspicion onto Israel for many of the same reasons cited by the British government.

He concludes,

The fact that the government chose, instead, to shut down all avenues of inquiry other than to claim falsely that the “only possibility” is for all roads to lead to Russia, demonstrates that we are almost certainly in the midst of a concerted state propaganda operation.

It may turn out that Russia did indeed carry out the Novichok attack. But at this time, the British state has no real basis to presume this. Which implies that the state has already decided that it wants to manufacture a path to heightened hostilities with Russia, regardless of the evidence. And that does not bode well.

Let us go a little further back into Ahmed’s past.

There is this:  How Islamist rebels engineered Israel’s oil grab in Syria (2015)

Israel’s ambitions to conquer the Golan Heights and western hopes to topple Assad raise questions around the discovery of oil in the Golan

Then there is this: (Wikipedia)

Ahmed’s later book, The War on Truth: 9/11, Disinformation and the Anatomy of Terrorism, follows up from his first book, with a critical evaluation of the findings of the 9/11 Commission. In The War on Truth, he argues that the United States government was involved in the 9/11 attacks on New York City and Washington and Ahmed has asserted that the “alleged hijackers had trained in US military installations in the 1990s, and even had connections to the CIA and DEA.”

He also argued this,

the pre-9/11 intelligence failure was not simply because of a lack of reliable intelligence, or because intelligence bureaucracy was hopelessly incompetent (which it was and is), but ultimately because the Bush administration made political decisions that obstructed critical intelligence investigations and ongoing information-sharing that could have prevented 9/11. Those decisions were made to protect vested interests linked to US support of Islamist extremist networks like the Taliban and their state-sponsors, such as the Gulf kingdoms, rooted in Western oil dependency and intersecting financial investments. The inadequacy of the 9/11 Commission investigation, in this regard, is an open secret to many intelligence experts.

Apart from the dubious method of citing the above Ahmed as an authority, with all his hints about UK government skullduggery, it is hard to see how the document the StWC relies on, concerning  “great power  manoeuvring” proves anything whatsoever about the Salisbury poisonings.

Still less that this is part of a plan for “destabilising and undermining Russian power”  and “regime change”.

Such are the political straws the StWC is clutching to these days.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 17, 2018 at 12:42 pm