Posts Tagged ‘Stop the War Coalition’
Owen Jones, “not taking part in Trump Demo because of leading role of the SWP in it, a cult which covered up rape.”
People who follow these things may have noticed an angry exchange between Lindsey German and comrade Owen Jones over the Trump protests.
As I have no wish to offered comrade Owen, who deleted the remarks, but did not protest at people mentioning it (despite opportunity to do so) I shall not paste it.
People who follow these things may have also noticed that yesterday there were two letters in the Guardian protesting against Trump’s planned visit to the UK.
One was headed by Owen’s name, it included Ed Miliband, senior trade union figures and human rights campaigners, prominent Momentum figures and people from respected left groups, such as Left Unity.
The other, well, let’s just say that it also included respected figures from the union movement and human rights campaigner, and… Lindsey German and organisations in which her groupuscule play a considerable part, the Stop the War Coalition and the remains of the People’s Assembly. Another organisation’s supporters, Stand up to Racism, best known for the SWP’s involvement, featured. And Islamist organisations, such as the Muslim Association of Britain. (1)
Momentum meanwhile has advertised the London Demo without mentioning the various fronts, groups claiming to represent the Muslim community, and others, behind the demonstration.
It simply says this: ” JOIN THE MARCH TO STOP TRUMP THIS SATURDAY
If you’re in London, join the march to Stop Trump’s Muslim Ban this Saturday, 4th February, from the US Embassy to Downing Street. The Momentum and Labour Assembly Against Austerity bloc will meet at 11am at 24 Grosvenor Square, London W1A 2LQ. Check out the Facebook Event for more information.
Momentum is in the right direction.
Protesting against Trump is very important, welcome, and needed.
But we don’t we don’t want to be caught up in the manipulative and dead-end politics of the likes of the SWP or Counterfire (both strong backers of the Brexit that Trump welcomes), the StWC (who oppose any interference in the sovereign politics of Syria) still less MAB and its cohorts.
Now this bombshell comes:
(1) “MAB first started working with the StWC in 2002 when they agreed to join together a demonstration they had planned to mark the anniversary of the Second Palestinian Intifada with a demonstration StWC had planned against the looming Iraq war at the opening of the Labour party. The march took place under the dual slogans ‘Don’t attack Iraq‘ and ‘Freedom for Palestine‘. According to Altikriti, MAB ‘spoke to Stop the War and we said to them, we will join you; however we will not become part of your coalition, we will be a separate and independent entity but we will work together with you on a national basis as part of the anti-war movement’. This reassured MAB that it would not ‘melt into that big coalition’  that was known to be led by the Left. They would remain a distinct and autonomous bloc, able to shape the agenda. Altikriti and others in the MAB leadership were working to persuade members that collaboration with non-Muslim anti-war activists was halal (religiously permissible) and that it was within the remit of their organisation. Their argument was that, if gender-segregated spaces and halal food could be provided at meetings, demonstrations and other events, then Muslims could participate in the anti-war movements without being assimilated”
More on Wikipedia.
Galloway with old Stop the War Coalition Friends: John and Lindsey.
Where are George’s friends now when he’s down on his uppers?
It seems like only yesterday: Respect (a “Zionist–free party” according to National Council member Yvonne Ridley), MP for Benthal Green and Bow, MP for Bradford West, Big Brother, employment for the prestigious Iranian state Press TV, and campaigning for Brexit with one the world’s top politicians, Nigel Farage.
Now George Galloway is alone, terribly alone.
Orbiting the world on Sputnik TV.
Reduced to trying to offload copies of his remaindered DVD, Kevin, Perry, George and Tony Blair Go Large, to The Works.
With his memories, and his Twitter account.
The least the Stop the War Coalition (StWC) could do is to offer George back his usual platform on the London demonstration this coming Saturday.
This does not seem probable.
Stalinism and Trotskyism both back in vogue says Andrew Murray (Chair of the Stop the War Coalition).
Both Stalin and Trotsky Back in Vogue says Chair of Stop the War Coalition.
Stalinism and Trotskyism appear to be back in vogue. Their shrouds are being waved — entryism here, a purge there — to terrify bystanders to the struggle over the future of the Labour Party, writes Andrew Murray.
“This illustrates the extent to which “dead Russians,” using the term slightly loosely, still hold the imagery and lexicon of the international left in thrall nearly a century after the October revolution.”
Andrew Murray is, to repeat, Chair of the Stop the War Coalition and holds some other positions in the labour movement.
He continues on this site.
In a learned analysis of Trotsky’s uncompleted book Stalin (apparently now out in a definitive edition) Murray outlines within this context the background of the founder of the Fourth International’s final (uncompleted) book.
It was Trotsky’s last major literary endeavour and he was working on it when he was assassinated by an agent of Soviet security in 1940. It was a biography so unauthorised that it may be the only one in the history of the genre whose author was murdered by its subject while the book was still being prepared.
We should nevertheless get the low-down on the cash involved.
Trotsky had been paid $5,000 for the job by a US publisher who was accurately anticipating a sustained assault on the Soviet leader.
Murray outlines the new version of the text now published by Socialist Appeal
In a herculean labour of love, Alan Woods and Rob Sewell of the Socialist Appeal group — that vindicated element of the old Militant tendency which argued that the fight in the Labour Party was not over — have restored the book to something more like what Trotsky would have intended. (1)
Here are some choice quotes from Murray’s review,
There is more to Trotsky’s bile than Olympian Marxist analysis. His outrage at the fact that he, the great leader of the insurrection and the Red Army, should have come off second best to a man obviously inferior to him in every salient respect — orator, writer, reader of second and third languages and so on — permeates every page.
The USSR won the war and Stalin emerged stronger than ever, with socialism spreading to half of Europe and much of Asia, perhaps the most significant of the many circumstances which left Trotskyism without Trotsky stillborn as a major political movement.
Trotsky would have found all this quite incomprehensible but perhaps not as incomprehensible as his own political worsting by a nonentity from the provinces. Historians and some on the left will continue to dispute these questions ad infinitum.
But no, the Labour Party is not living through “Stalinism” versus “Trotskyism” reincarnated.
Time, perhaps, for a new political vocabulary.
I shall leave it to the comrades to discuss this review in more detail, including this claim against Trotsky, “his assertions about the number of Red Army officers suppressed in the purges are wide of the mark by significant magnitudes.”
Personally I much prefer Boris Souvarine’s Stalin:A Critical Survey of Bolshevism (Translated by C.L.R. James 1939. French edition 1935) (see also this « Staline » de Boris Souvarine). “Souvarine was a founding member of the French Communist Party and is noted for being the only non-Russian communist to have been a member of the Comintern for three years in succession. He famously authored the first biography of Joseph Stalin, published in 1935 as Staline, Aperçu Historique du Bolchévisme (Stalin, Historic Overview of Bolshevism) and kept close correspondence with Lenin and Trotsky until their deaths.”
According to the one-time Trotskyist Fred Zeller in Témoin du siècle while he visited the Marxist leader in Norway he informed Trotsky of Souvraine’s work.
Trotsky did not have a high opinion of it, noting that the book was even not unreservedly respectful of Lenin…..
Souveraine was, one observes today, critical of Trotsky, but rightly laid the emphasis on the monstrous crimes of Stalin and the immense social apparatus of repression and killing that was built from the 1920s onwards.
(1) More here: In these videos, Alan Woods and Rob Sewell discuss Leon Trotsky’s great unfinished work, Stalin, which is being published this year by Wellred Books. Alan Woods discusses the political and theoretical analysis provided by Trotsky, who attempts to explain some of the most decisive events of the 20th century, not just in terms of epoch-making economic and social transformations, but in the individual psychology of those who appear as protagonists in a great historical drama. Meanwhile, Rob Sewell provides the story behind the publication of this magnum opus – the most extensive edition of the book ever released, completed from the original archive material.
StWC Opposes Outside Help to Defeat Genocidal ISIS.
Iraqi-led forces have surrounded a Christian town in an attempt to liberate it from ISIS control, but they are facing fierce resistance, exchanging heavy gunfire with the militants, a paramilitary general told CNN.
The operation in the town of Qaraqosh by Iraqi forces, Peshmerga fighters and a Christian paramilitary group is the latest in an aggressive push toward the city of Mosul by a coalition of around 94,000 people, aimed at unshackling the strategic city from more than two years of brutal ISIS control.
Part of Qaraqosh has already been liberated, according to General Amr Shamoun, who belongs to the Christian militia involved in the attack.
More on CNN.
Inside Mosul: IS threatens US and spreads terror among civilians
As Iraqi forces close in on Mosul, IS targets suspected spies and is believed to be using civilians as human shields.
StWC Statement on Mosul (17th of October).
The misery of the people of the Middle East continues. We have condemned the bombing of Aleppo by Russia and that of Yemen by Saudi Arabia. Now there is the battle over Mosul in which both US and UK planes will be used for air strikes. While no one can support the brutal behaviour of ISIS, and all would welcome its disappearance, more aerial bombardment of civilians will not help to bring about peace and stability in Iraq. Indeed, the offensive on Mosul which began today is in danger of creating a grave humanitarian crisis as hundreds of thousands try to flee the city.
This is the key part of the statement,
The US and UK governments do not have the interests of the people at heart, but are concerned with their own strategic interests and control of the resources in the region, in the case of Mosul oil. Stop the War opposes all the outside interventions by foreign powers and all the bombing being carried out from whatever source on the people of the Middle East.
So the StWC would welcome the “disappearance” of ISIS – presumably in a puff of smoke.
In the meantime they are opposed to the military aid which might bring their defeat.
Because the US and the UK have an interest in Mosul Oil?
Because they are “outside interventions”?
Mosul is a very hard case but what was their stand during this: the siege of Kobanî when our Kurdish comrades fought for dear life against the genociders of ISIL (ISIS)?
By 2 October 2014, ISIL succeeded in capturing 350 Kurdish villages and towns within the vicinity of Kobanê, generating a wave of some 300,000 displaced Kurds, who fled across the border into Turkey‘sŞanlıurfa Province. By January 2015, this had risen to 400,000. The Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), coordinated as part of the Euphrates Volcano joint operations room, were later joined by further Free Syrian Army (FSA) reinforcements, heavily armed Peshmerga of the Kurdistan Regional Government, and American and Arab airstrikes providing air support.
On 26 January 2015, the YPG, along with the continued US-led airstrikes, began to retake the city, driving ISIL into a steady retreat. The city of Kobanê was fully recaptured on 27 January; however, most of the remaining villages in the Kobanî Canton remained under ISIL control. Kurdish militia along with allied Arab armed groups backed by further airstrikes, then made rapid advances in rural Kobanî, with ISIL withdrawing 25 km from the city of Kobanî by 2 February. By late April 2015, ISIL had lost almost all of the villages it had captured in the Canton, but maintained control of a few dozen villages it seized in the northwestern part of the Ar-Raqqah Governorate. The battle for Kobanî was considered a turning point in the war against ISIL.
Well, we know they oppose all foreign interventions.
This is important background reading: this time on the related struggles in Syria.
On 15 November 2015, Diane Abbott went on the BBC’s ‘Daily Politics’ show to defend herself and the Stop the War (StW) coalition against a rather odd accusation: that they refuse to give a platform to Syrians when discussing Syria.
It followed a heated exchange just days prior, in which Syrian activists challenged StW’s leadership on the matter during a talk on Syria. They were backed by Peter Tatchell, the veteran anti-war activist who had also been criticising StW for what many perceive as its intolerance towards left-wing, democratic and anti-Assad Syrian activists.
This was not a new accusation. StW has prevented Syrian activists from speaking at their rallies or from taking part in any “anti-war” campaign, while giving a platform to pro-Assad apologists and inviting Assad’s own allies like the Ghouta massacre-denier Fadia Laham, also known as “Mother Agnes”, for years.
This exposes two fundamental aspects of StW today: A de facto tolerance and acceptance of Assad’s tyranny translated as the problem of people “over there” which “we” must not get involved in, regardless of the repercussions, and a hatred for subaltern voices, in this case Syrians, who do not fit the accepted narrative.
This, in turn, works hand in hand with an outdated cold war-era framework, still plaguing much of the western and Arab Left, which romanticises (read: whitewashes) the Kremlin’s politics.
More on The New Arab.
After 15 Years what do they have to show for it all?
Our conference next month marks the 15th anniversary of our movement. A time to say no to all the wars arising from the war on terror. And to continue our commitment to opposing the system our government is at the heart of, imperialism.
If the StWC is opposed to all wars “arising from the war on terror”, and it bases its opposition on being against ‘imperialism’ is the StWC simply an ‘anti-imperialist’ group.
The confusion that has lain for years over the StWC comes from this source.
It can be ‘against’ Western, and specifically UK, involvement in ‘bombing Syria’ but it has absolutely no answer to the multiple wars in that region, except being against the one force they identity as ‘imperialist’ – the US and its direct allies.
Who are opposed to Assad, who is backed by the Russian Federation, and Iran.
Who are not – officially – supported by the StWC because the StWC is against all ‘foreign’ involvement in Syria – even (they officially) claim those fighting ‘imperialism’, like Assad.
Who the US and its NATO allies oppose.
But even here, since some US allies, such as the Saudis and the Gulf states, back non-ISIS jihadist forces to the US against Assad and against…the Kurds.
Who, a progressive left force, are supported (in the shape of the YPG) by the Americans…
Who have been driven to oppose to Turkey, its ally, when they fight the Kurds..
Who are also…
Well, we could go on.
Stopping the War is clearly not on the cards in Syria, nor has the slogan any meaning in dealing with the fighting in Iraq.
StWC claims not to “take sides” in Syria, but somehow be to be against “war” without being pacifists – that it absolutely against any violence.
But the violence continues, and there is no such thing as a non ‘intervening’ side when not doing something is to let things, continue…
The incoherence of the position of the STWC is to imagine, or at least claim, that they are both au-dessus de la Mêlée and anti-imperialist.
But we all incoherent faced with the mass killings taking place.
But failing to stand up for human decency in the face of the genocides taking place and saying, in effect, “none of our business”, leave a nasty taste in the mouth.
Most people have simply walked away from this crew.
Let the Festivities Commence!
It would be churlish not to leave the StWC with some crumbs of comfort.
In a note of self-celebration and a much needed pat on the pat, German also states today,
We did a great thing collectively with Stop the War. We have maintained it as an organisation and in the past year have seen a considerable increase in support, despite (or perhaps because of) the attacks on Corbyn. We are, I think, the major anti-war movement in any Nato country. The attacks from the right over the Syria bombing vote in 2013 showed the legacy of the movement and what damage we did. Ditto the Syria vote last year, used as a vicious attack on Jeremy Corbyn (and joined in by the pro-intervention left). There are many issues to debate about our history, and still a job to combat interventions in the Middle East and through Nato expansion.
But no, let us continue churlishly.
In reality all that remains of this “great thing” is that the StWC struggled to get a couple of thousand people at its last demonstration (November 2015) and barely more than a couple of hundred at the CND anti-Trident protest outside Parliament this July.
One notes who they chose as a speaker at the November event.
And this sprightly new face, before his more recent Brexit campaigning:
The major reason for their decline is that the StWC is as we have just seen, an irrelevance in the face of the events unfolding in the Middle East.
Another is that the group, no doubt caught up in what Counterfire calls the ‘actuality of the revolution’ feels free to expound on a variety of issues with a less than direct link to war.
It published this tissue of lies a few days ago:
These are some of the most shameful episodes in the treatment of Muslim women in France that I can recall. They are state sponsored bullying and racism pure and simple. Islamophobia is only one form of racism, although it is the major one in Europe today. But it is the only one which targets the behaviour and dress of women in particular, and tried to alter this behaviour in the most draconian way.
German shamefully tries to link the ban on the Burkini to French international interventions.
She can barely resist saying of the atrocities, “they had it coming to them…”
France has also been increasingly strongly involved in interventions in Muslim countries, most notably Syria and Libya, which have led to increases in the level of terrorism.
Without going into great detail about the issue we simply note.
- It was not the French ‘state’ which tried to ban the burkini, but right-wing local authorities on the country’s coastline.
- The French ‘state’ in the shape of the Conseil d’Etat (Council of State, the clue being the second part of the name…) overturned the ban. It said it was incompatible with human rights.
- It was kind of German to express concern for the mass murders carried out by Daesh supporters in France. But perhaps something a little more forthcoming than a reference to “increases in the level of terrorism” linked to “interventions in Muslim countries” might have been more appropriate for those close to the victims in Nice, Paris and Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, to cite but the most recent atrocities.
Socialist Unity carries a defence of the Stop the War Coalition against Phil’s The Anti-imperialism of Fools, In Defence of the Stop the War Coalition.
I was going to begin with this, “Given the extent to which some on the left in the West continue to call for the toppling of Assad in Syria (a goal they share with Western governments), is Trotskyism the new neo-conservatism? ” by John Wight, also of Socialist Unity.
Like latter day John Browns such voices, wielding a copy of Trotsky’s Permanent Revolution in one hand and a one-way ticket to irrelevancy in the other, unleash verbal broadsides of calumny at any who dare question the intellectual and ideological idiocy they parade with the kind of gusto one associates with the infantile disorder of a type well known.
For such people ideological templates are all the rage, employed as a convenient opt-out of the obligation to come up with a concrete analysis of a concrete situation. Revolution is but a parlour game as they relive 1871, 1917 or 1968, the years bandied around like connoisseurs of champagne discussing a favorite vintage.
But I’ve had enough champagne in recent days..
I return to In Defence of the Stop the War Coalition.
Andy Newman begins
I was very disappointed to see a rather shoddy hatchet job against the Stop the War Coalition recently, not from the usual “decent” suspects, but from Phil Burton-Cartledge, on the usually pro-Corbyn and pro-left website, Left Futures.
Newman asserts that Phil’s criticism of ‘revolutionary defeatism’ – which are widely shared and have developed on this site – are invalid.
Phil summarised this aspect of Lenin’s politics , as they have been interpreted over the generations, to mean, “The role of revolutionaries everywhere was to turn inter-imperialist war into revolutionary civil war, to prevent soldiers from turning their bayonets outwards against other workers of other nationalities to the real enemy within – the owners of capital on whose behest the Great War was fought.”
Revolutionary defeatism was its name, overthrowing capitalism its game. And then, with mass parties of workers who’d traditionally been locked out of the political system, and were familiar with socialist and, in some cases, Marxist rhetoric, it actually made sense. Whether one disagrees with revolutionary socialist politics or not, it was a real possibility in several European countries as a wave of uprisings and revolts swept the continent as decayed and weakened empires collapsed.
Some of Andy Newman’s points carry weight,
The terminology of imperialism may sound oddly old fashioned, but Britain really did have a global Empire, built upon military conquest, plunder, rapine and murder. The powerhouse of the British economy was indeed built upon the crimes of Atlantic slavery, upon the transfer of vast amounts of capital to the UK from the colonies, and destroying indigenous economic capacity in order to create mass markets for British manufacturing.
This is not only of historical interest, because Britain’s current economic endowment as a capital rich, high skilled economy has arisen from that legacy. And the prestige and influence of the British state is still bound up with the post-colonial network of military, commercial and diplomatic alliances that arose with the rise of the USA as a global superpower. And yes, British foreign policy is still shaped by those interests, and habits; and there is still a mindset of entitlement, nowadays wrapped up in rather selective concerns about human rights, that has over recent years has led to some misplaced military interventions.
Newman mistakes the object of Phil’s critique.
It is not that ‘imperialism’ has not existed, nor that there is no form of imperial – in the sense both of capital exports, control of trade, cultural dominance, and the global reach of powers such as the US and the UK, and their military extensions – have evaporated. There is a rich and important debate on the forms of this, the “new imperialism” “empire” and the neo-liberal finance-led shaping of the process of “globalisation”.
The real issue here however is the politics of revolutionary defeatism.
Lenin and Revolutionary Defeatism.
The origins of this principle lie in Lenin – few can deny that. During the Great War Lenin was thinking in terms of the growth of the revolutionary movement resulting from military defeat at the hands of the enemy government.
This, Hal Draper observed in The Myth of Revolutionary Defeatism (1953/4), was taken by Trotsky in 1939 to mean a general view that,
Defeatism is the class policy of the proletariat, which even during a war sees the main enemy at home, within its particular imperialist country. Patriotism, on the other hand, is a policy which locates the main enemy outside one’s own country. The idea of defeatism signifies in reality the following: conducting an irreconcilable revolutionary struggle against one’s own bourgeoisie as the main enemy, without being deterred by the fact that this struggle may result in the defeat of one’s own government; given a revolutionary movement the defeat of one’s own government is a lesser evil. Lenin did not say nor did he wish to say anything else. There cannot even be talk of any other kind of ‘aid’ to defeat.
Draper was a supporter of the ‘third camp’ position: “The Marxist alternative is to reject the whole victory-or-defeat dilemma with its “lesser evil” trap, in the consistent Third Camp fashion which characterized Trotsky and Luxemburg’s approach.”
That is, to support the interests of the workers, the people, the masses, as they exist in particular conditions come first, and then we look at the policies and states. Left-wing international politics are not some kind of chess board where we play off pieces (states) against one another. Workers and oppressed people’s interests are independent of state power. Plainly in some circumstances of armed conflict these needs could coincide with their governments’, bourgeois or not. When Hitler invaded independent countries it would be wrong to assert that the armed forces of one’s country should be beaten. In fact democratic socialists backed the Allies against the Axis well before the USSR entered the war on the rational grounds that they were a threat to all.
Some Trotskyists in the 1930s and 1940s pushed the contrary argument. They stated that only special classes of movements for defence against invasion should be supported (defending the Soviet Union). This would mean, in the Second World War, that nobody could fight Hitler except completely ‘independently’ of all bourgeois taint. Whether they wished for the crushing of their own bourgeois state by another was avoided by claiming that they would organise resistance to both.
One faction of French Trotskyists illustrated the absurdity of a full ‘defeatist’ position, when in 1944, the paper, La Verité, published this front page article, welcomed the liberation by putting the Allied invaders, the French Resistance, the Nazi occupiers and the Vichy regime on the same plane: those fighting the Nazis are the exact equivalent of the SS and Vichy.
So much for history.
Phil makes the point that today ‘anti-imperialism’ entails a very specific kind of defeat-wishing. That to will the end of imperial hegemony is to set upon the means of finding an agency to do this, free from the corrupt politics of the “labour aristocracy” of the West, “…if that is your position, it follows that anything shutting down the funnelling of wealth from the south to the north would weaken capital’s capacity to absorb the demands of metropolitan workers.” “Therefore, to be consistent, the role of the revolutionary in the imperialist West is to work for the defeat of one’s own state, and that can be done by promoting the cause of its enemy.”
The Anti-imperialism of Fools asserts that this explains StWC, SWP, Counterfire backing – covert or overt – for all kinds of ‘anti-imperialist’ forces, up to and including the Baathists in Iraq, the Taliban, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Iranian theocracy and not doubt Assad today. It would explain why in the “multi-polar” world they consider the “designs and manoeuvres of rival states and enemies are benign or, at least, less harmful.” In the UK the StWC reached out not just to Muslims in protests against wars involving Islamic countries, but to Islamists, political Islam as allies in the fight to defeat imperialism and, domestically “against the State. Or, as Phil notes, crudely, its leaders whether (then) the SWP or (now) Counterfire, regard Muslims as a privileged area of recruitment (not with much success one has to say).
This is a pretty stark – bare-bones – account.
StWC leaders represent a number of different strands of thought. For many the main objection to specific foreign interventions – as in Syria now – is that they are dangerous adventures that cost human lives without bringing justice, or human rights in their wake. There are those who indeed have a visceral objection to ‘imperialism’ because they do not consider that universal human rights can be enforced (to echo Robespierre) by the bayonets of a democracy. This are honourable positions – largely because they happen to be right.
Andy Newman’s strongest point, which underscores the previous argument, is the following,
given the fact that the actual lived experience of the military campaigns has been disastrous, and indeed the disastrous outcomes have been made all the worse by the ideologues in Washington who have not respected state sovereignty, and indeed seen the actual destruction of states as a beneficial outcomes – in both Libya and Iraq, and now in Syria.
But… inside the StWC here are also those who are clearly not in favour of stopping any military campaign if it involves Russian help to Assad to defeat Daesh.
Like John Wight, also of Socialist Unity.
There are also those, in the SWP and Counterfire, who think that an Arab revolution is still out there, waiting to be ignited if the ‘West’ is defeated in the Middle East; a starting point not so different from those who think that the Arab Spring can be continued by armed Western support for Syrian democrats.
Apart from that, the vaguest of vague wishes, there is little evidence that the StWC supports the victory of just any of imperialism’s ‘enemies’, Daesh to the fore. Overwhelmed, Assad’s defenders (Wight excepted) argue that he has to be backed faute de miuex.
The reason why Phil’s article stung – and we hope to have made our own contribution to the pain – is that he singles out the loss of a ‘moral compass’ in the StWC’s calls to ‘stop the war’ when they clearly have not the slightest idea of how this might come about, above all in Syria.
The depravity of their reaction to Charlie and the Casher-Hebdo massacres still lingers: arguing in terms of a, if not legitimate but at least ‘understandable’, ‘blowback’ may be more muted now,
But they have indeed recycled equally distasteful ‘whirlwind’ arguments – suggesting that if people should be afraid of more Paris massacres. Posing as messengers of Peace against the harbingers of war, they want us safe at Home.
The Syrian civil war has meant over 200,000 deaths and millions of refugees. The Assad Baathist state stands accused of mass murder and systemic torture. Daesh has created a genocidal Islamic regime with ambitions to wider totalitarian power.
Other Islamists with totalitarian ambitions are rife. Many are backed by the Saudi-brokered “anti-terrorist” alliance.
Democrats, principally the Kurdish led forces, fighting with rare courage, are attacked by one of the pillars of the Western intervention, Turkey.
In Syria and Iraq hundreds of thousands of Christians and other religious groups, such as the Yazidis, have been cleansed from their homelands by the forces of Islamist bigotry.
These are our sisters and brothers.
The StWC considers that “Our” responsibility starts and ends at “home”.
It does not even argue for defence and military support for the one alliance which stands out as a bulwark against all forms of reaction, the People’s Protection Units (Yekîneyên Parastina Gel) and their more recent allies.
The Real Problem.
The Stop the War Coalition involves groups, including leading figures, who have a contentious view of ‘imperialism’ and some are influenced by a sour unappealing version of ‘revolutionary defeatism’. At times their spokespeople come close to a “Little Englander” stand that the risks of foreign wars – costs to our pockets, our military deaths, potential domestic terrorism – are too great. This is as unappealing as the moral puffery of those who would impose human rights at the end of a cluster bomb.
But this is not their principal problem.
This is that the StWC have no way of conveying a political message of solidarity with those suffering in the Syrian civil war, to further the aspirations for democracy and human rights, other than UK Stop Bombing.
They, whether Trotskyist or not, are truly conservative: repeat that, and all is resolved…
Update: Stop the War Replies to Critics: People are rude about us because we are so Awesome.
Within the anti-war movement there will be different views about what are the solutions to peace in the Middle East — the key question for us is opposing further intervention there by British and other forces.
Some on the left seem incapable of understanding this. But then, some on the left have never really understood the importance of a mass anti-war movement aimed at our government..
One of the major successes of Stop the War has been its ability to unite different forces. We will continue to do so.
The support we have received in recent weeks is in total contrast to these witch hunts, with many people joining, donating and coming out on the streets for our demos.
Left-wing criticisms of Stop the War will not go away.
The assault on Stop the War is really aimed at Jeremy Corbyn wrote Tariq Ali a few days ago in the Independent.
He stated, “In addition to the wars in the Middle East there is a nasty and unpleasant war being waged in England, targeting Jeremy Corbyn.”
Richard Burgon, Shadow Treasury Minister has remarked that,
…the attacks on Stop the War were “proxy attacks” on the Labour leader.
Responding to criticism the Labour leader said at a fundraising dinner for the Stop the War Coalition (StWC) last Friday, that the alliance was “one of the most important democratic campaigns of modern times”, and accused the coalition’s critics of trying to close down debate.”
“He wished the group the very best, saying it has been a movement “dedicated to peace”. The “anti-war movement has been a vital force at the heart of our democracy”, he said. “I think we’ve been right on what we’ve done.”
Corbyn added: “We are a peaceful, democratic force. We are a force for good. We are a force for opening out people’s minds and mobilising them to challenge those that would take us into another war.
“I’ve been proud to be the chair of the Stop the War coalition, proud to be associated with the Stop the War coalition.
“We are very strong, there are very many more of us than there are of those people that want to take us in the other direction.”Corbyn insisted on attending the Christmas fundraiser in Southwark, as Labour sources said he had promised to hand over the chairman’s role in person. (Guardian.)
The StWC itself has said
“While most of our critics have supported all the wars of this century in the face of growing evidence that they have failed, the Stop the War Coalition has a proud record of campaigning against wars since the start of what was originally called ‘the war on terror,’” the group claimed in a statement on Wednesday.
StWC also attacked the vote on bombing Syria.
“The politicians who voted for further war last week fail to acknowledge the dismal record of previous interventions,” StWC argued. “Many of them are the same people who were the cheerleaders for the war in Iraq.”
In the wake of the vote to bomb targets in Syria, a number of MPs claimed to have been harassed or even sent death threats by opponents of the move.
StWC said these claims were due to “the fact that some of our supporters have had the temerity to lobby their parliamentary representatives.”
“Wild claims of intimidation of MPs have been shown to have been falsified,” it added.
John McDonnell has been cited as saying,
…one of the things we normally do is campaign against unjust wars.
“That is why we were involved in the foundation of Stop the War. Again, others have been critical of Stop the War and some of the positions they have taken, but that is honest political debate.
“As far as I am concerned, Stop the War have got it right in terms of Iraq and Afghanistan and in terms of the bombing of Syria. So of course we continue to support the organisation.
There is no argument that there are many, in the media, and amongst Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour opponents who have used the controversy about the Stop the War Coalition as a means to get at the Labour leader.
But what of “honest political debate”?
It has not escaped the attention of many left-wingers that the Stop the War Coalitions problems are deeper than the crass posts – now removed, apparently – on its Web site. That the ‘whirlwind’ and Daesh as “Internationalist Brigades” posts – amongst others – have been removed alters little about the overall politics of the group.
George Galloway, a prominent StWC supporter, has spoken at their recent rallies. Apart from his sympathies for Russian bombing in Syria, this is one of his recent statements during his campaign to be London Mayor,
Galloway also promised to support the police and security services in the fight against terrorism.
“The police will find a friend in me,” he added.
“Every terrorist will be shot down dead, and if I can, I will pull the trigger myself.
“I say to the police officer in the room, when it comes to your wages, your resources and your strengthening, you can count on me.”
The StWC protested, it might be recalled, at the terrible police shooting of suspected “terrorist” Jean Charles de Menezes in 2005.
Perhaps some may find it odd that they now promote somebody advocating a free hand to the police to shoot….terrorists.
In January this year after the Charlie Hebdo and Hyper-Casher massacres Tari Ali gave a classic ‘whirlwind’ blow-back explanation of the killings,
That has been going on since 9/11. The West refuses to address the causes. Any attempt to explain why is usually denounced and so it becomes civilisational, or good versus evil, or free speech versus barbarism. The fact is that the West has reoccupied the Arab world with disasters in Syria, Iraq and Libya where things are much worse than under the previous authoritarian regimes. This is the prime cause of the radicalisation of young Muslims. The Left is in a bad way or seen as part of the problem, so they go to the mosque, search for hardline solutions and are eager to be used by jehadis.
What is the context in which the Paris killing should be seen?
As I described above but vis-a-vis France, these guys were a pure product of French society. Unemployed, long-haired, into drugs, alienated till they saw footage of US torture and killings in Iraq.
So you think western interventionist policies in the Arab and Muslim world are responsible for radicalisation of sections of Muslims in Europe and the United States?
In my opinion, one hundred per cent.
How serious is Islamophobia in France and other European countries?
France is the worst in Europe and tries to mask it by proclaiming its secular values (sound familiar?), but these values don’t apply to Islam. In fact, French secularism means anything but Islam. And when satirical magazines taunt them, they react. It’s as simple as that.
The ‘West’ was to blame for violent Islamism; Charlie Hebdo was “taunting” Moslems – we know what happened…
The more recent Paris slaughter has wider targets than the wrong kind of “secular” leftists at Charlie Hebdo and Jews, but one can see in Ali’s response (I have not referred to his later ‘wise guy’ comments giving the ‘inside dope’ on the weekly’s history and internal conflicts) that ‘reaping the whirlwind’ claims are not new in the StWC
Ali’s position on Syria appears to be that the “causes” of the civil war – Western intervention – are the prime target. StWC is opposed to “foreign interventions and especially where the British Government is involved.” The focus on Britain avoids the problem, which supporters of Syrian democrats emphasise, that Assad is backed by foreign intervention, and that StWC systematically excludes their voices from the debate.
In the Independent Ali evokes 19th century opposition to British colonial expeditions. “starting with William Morris’s observation in 1885 that the defeat of the British Army in the Sudan under General Gordon at the hands of the Mahdi (a religious leader par excellence), was a positive event insofar it weakened the British Empire.”
Is it the case that in “different times” – now – religious leaders weakening of the British or US ‘Empire’ can be welcomed?
Or, is Ali perhaps evoking the much more influential 19th century opponents of British colonial expeditions – the Little Englanders, such as John Bright (1811 – 1889)? Bright stood for many honourable causes, successfully joining opponents of UK support for the Southern side in the American civil war, and, less successfully, speaking against the Crimean War. As an anti-colonialist Bright tends to be forgotten for his equally ferocious campaign against Irish Home Rule. But the theme of British responsibility, the focus on the moral responsibility of the British government, and the need to fight “our” rulers, has left its mark on the modern ‘anti-imperialists’ of the StWC.
One does not have to agree with the claim that there are substantial numbers of Syrian democratic revolutionaries left in much of the country to see that this is clearly a problem.
Many feel that they have a responsibility to people across the world – it’s called internationalism.
In this context we note also Peter Tatchell’s criticisms of the StWC.
The dismissive response, whether one agrees with assertions about the strength of the Syrian democrats or not, has not been helpful.
Andrew Murray, Chair of the StWC, who is a considerably greater figure than any of the two already cited, has failed to explain why, as a member of the small Communist Party of Britain (CPB) – which backs Russian bombing in Syria to support Assad on the grounds that the Syrian state is sovereign – he is a leading figure in a movement that’s called “Stop the War”.
In an interview a few days ago with John Harris in the Guardian this exchange took place,
I suggest that the Assad regime has to go, and ask Murray if he agrees. But he doesn’t directly answer the question. We bat the point around for a few minutes, before we arrive at the reason why: as a staunch anti-imperialist, he says it’s not his place to call for the toppling of regimes overseas: a strange position for an avowed internationalist, perhaps, but there we are.
“Look, Assad has been bombing his own civilians, and he’s wreaked incredible suffering on the Syrian people,” he says. “I find nothing to applaud in the regime. Except this one aspect: it appears to have quite a lot of support from minority religions in Syria, and there is a fear that there could be mass killings of Christians or Shia Muslims – which is why a transition to democracy is what is needed.”
But why avoid saying Assad should go?
I’ve said [the regime] is awful. But you’re wanting me to take the place of the Syrian people. You’re wanting me to say, like the other colonialists down the years: ‘This regime should go.’”
Feeling a mild desperation, I bow to Godwin’s law, and mention Nazi Germany. In the 1930s and 40s, it would have been perfectly legitimate to insist that Hitler’s regime was so heinous that it ought to have been brought down, in a completely non-imperialist, moral context. So why can’t you say the same about Assad?
Eventually, Murray talks about a diplomatic push for a transition “that will end up with Assad going”. He goes on: “In my view, the important thing is that the Syrian people decide who their leaders are. I don’t believe it is the responsibility of people in Britain to choose the governments of foreign countries. If Assad wants to chance testing his popularity, that’s up to the Syrian people.”
John Rees and Lindsey German – the other key figures in the StWC – are leaders of Counterfire, a split from the Socialist Workers Party. Their principal difference with their former comrades was that they both wished to continue building a “united front” in the anti-war movement (that is work with other forces in the pressure group on a long-term basis), while the SWP wanted, as they always do, to switch over to whatever new campaign was their priority as the time (which few can remember).
Counterfire has a ‘revolutionary’ strategy,
At the point where revolutionaries took the step of initiating the Stop the War Coalition in 2001, we undertook an analysis something like this. We had already understood the nature of the new imperialism from theoretical work at the end of the Cold War, during the First Gulf War, and during the war in the Balkans. We understood the contradiction between expansive US military power and its relative economic decline. We judged, from preceding experience in the anti-globalisation movement, that there would be a mood to resist and that the left might not be divided in the way it had been in the Cold War.”
Rees claims, then, that the left determined the political direction of the StWC. “We” grasped the “subjective” element in politics and organised the “mood to resist”. The words ‘united front’ have all but evaporated. Instead we had another approach, which led (see below) to the formation of Respect. That is one based on access to “workers’ consciousness”. This method was not only applied to wage-labours. In 2003 he noted that amongst Muslims, “Some of these have been radicalised by the war, and by the effect on them of racism bolstered by the war and government policy. This has made them open to working with and being influenced by the left.” The alliances of the StWC and the left within it, was therefore not a matter of confronting people’s contradictory opinions, but to get a hold on “radicalised” forces – primarily Muslims.
Counterfire and the Coalition of Resistance: a critical analysis. Tendance Coatesy. 2010.
Phil comments that the strategy has not worked well.
The Anti-imperialism of Fools.
The US is no longer the world’s unchallenged hegemon. Yet Stop the War has more or less carried on as if none of this has happened, as if the USA is the only active agent in the world and – implicitly – the designs and manoeuvres of rival states and enemies are benign or, at least, less harmful. This is why Putin never gets as much stick as Obama, why leading members of its steering committee have occasionally associated with sundry undesirables, why the Kurds get no support while IS are clumsily and favourably compared with the International Brigades. Why it appears that authoritarians and totalitarians get a free pass while democratic countries are criticised and mobilised against.
We need a new Stop the War coalition or, rather, we need one with new politics, one that recognises the inequitable and unjust character of international relations and global political economy, that sometimes war and peace is a messy business, and acknowledges that it’s not our place to soft soap regimes and terror outfits. Not that difficult you’d think, yet here we are.
Phil B. Left Futures.
In conclusion how better to illustrate this politics in action than this?
On 10 December the NUT National Executive debated a motion on Syria. It was based on something the SWP had sent out earlier in the week but was moved by Dave Harvey from Outer London.
The motion was pretty bland, reaffirming a previous decision to oppose UK air strikes on Syria, condemning the recent vote to bomb and calling for support for demos and protests against this including those called by the Stop The War Coalition. I wrote an amendment which added condemnation of all bombing, specifically naming Russian and Assad regime bombing. It also called on Stop The War to condemn this military intervention as well as UK attacks and it called on the UK government to demand that NATO member Turkey cease all attacks on the Kurds.
The debate was short but bizarre. The most common response was that people ‘didn’t disagree with a word in the amendment but it takes the focus off the UK bombing and that has to be our main thrust’.
The crassest argument by far came from the SWP. To criticise Stop The War at this time is to criticise Corbyn and that’s a no-no. So we had self-styled revolutionary socialists using their lifetimes of Marxist education to urge Labour Party members to be more loyal to their leader. Much like members of the SWP do for their leaders I guess.
12 Executive members voted for my amendment and 26 against. The main motion was then carried with one vote against (Ian Leaver of Leicester who seconded my amendment). There was probably a case for that stance. For him it was a gesture of his frustration with Stop The War’s recent publication of articles appearing to compare Daesh to the anti-fascist International Brigades and to blame the West for the Paris atrocity. There was certainly a case for abstention though it was not a particularly strident motion. My amendment took nothing out (rightly or wrongly) but added stuff in.
The vote for the amendment crossed the obvious political divides to some extent but the bulk of support for it came from LANAC supporters. The determination to defeat this condemnation of Russia and Assad and the minor criticism of Stop the War came from supporters of the Socialist Teachers Alliance and their bag-carriers in the SWP.
Both organisations are so saturated in low level, lesser-evil anti-imperialism that they have forgotten that such a thing as socialist internationalism ever existed. Now it’s just ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend’ (or at least a less bad enemy). It was very much like watching the last spasms of a dying species.