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We must defend the Stop the War Coalition

stopthewarI was very disappointed to see a rather shoddy hatchet job against Stop the War recently, not from the usual “decent” suspects, but from Phil Burton-Cartledge, right here on Left Futures. Let us be clear, over the issue of war in Afghanistan, the British establishment has been proven wrong, and the arguments made by Stop the War at the time have been vindicated by events.

Over the question of the invasion of Iraq, the British establishment has been proven wrong, and the arguments made by the Stop the War Coalition at the time have been vindicated by events.

Over the question of the overthrow of the Libyan state, the British establishment has been proven wrong, and the arguments made by Stop the War at the time have been vindicated by events.

Stop the War is indeed a coalition of people with different views united around the single aim of opposing those particular British military adventures that have arisen from the so-called war on terror. It therefore includes pacifists, it also includes those who believe that the British state does have a legitimate role in using armed force to protect and promote British territory, citizens and interests, but are not convinced that the particular military actions proposed do represent Britain’s best interests. It includes some who believe that the British state should be overthrown in a socialist revolution, and it includes some people who profoundly disagree with that point of view and even find it distasteful.

Naturally, as the specific issues have changed and evolved then the nature of the coalition has also adapted. For example, some who opposed the war on Iraq now distance themselves from Stop the War because they are more sympathetic to some of the rebels in Syria. What is more, as the intensity of public opinion has subsided since the high point of 2003, then the numbers actively involved have declined. Nevertheless, Stop the War has been an indispensable part of British democratic life, and has played a constructive role in seeking to question and hold to account the government and the military.

This last point is important. In Britain there is a deep pride in the armed forces, and respect for the ideal of service that they represent. Every family and every community has links to the forces. The military covenant requires that soldiers do not involve themselves in politics, but do whatever duty is required of them, at whatever personal cost it requires. There is therefore a civic duty for those of us outside the military to exercise diligence and scrutiny on their behalf, to ensure that British service man and women are not exposed to danger, or required to involve themselves in questionable actions. It is up to us to hold the government to account.

Stop the War are the good guys. What is more, the particular individuals involved in the leadership have generally done well to maintain its plurality, and have worked successfully together despite not always agreeing on secondary matters.

Recently, the Stop the War website has published a couple of silly articles, clumsily worded or crudely expressed. Compared to what they have been right about over the last several years, this is clearly chiff chaff. Yet Stop the War has been exposed to relentless criticism, almost becoming a moral panic.

Even the concept of pacifism has become exposed to ridicule. I personally am not a pacifist, but pacifists count amongst their number some of the bravest people imaginable, for example, those who believe that whatever the danger or provocation, they must show witness to God by refusing to use physical violence, even in their own self defence. Pacifists have been imprisoned, tortured and even executed without renouncing this principle. Whether or not we agree with them, they are worthy of respect.

Phil takes a different tack, with a poorly argued and ramshackle argument that Stop the War has the politics of the SWP, and then Phil takes issue not with the contemporary arguments of Stop the War, but with a man who has been dead for nearly a hundred years … Lenin.

Firstly, it is not in fact true that Stop the War ever derived its politics from the SWP. What did happen is that in many parts of the country the organizational impetus and backbone of the STW in its early days came from the SWP, but the politics were always coalitional, and given the short attention span of most SWP activists the most long enduring STW groups genuinely included a wide variety of views, priorities and opinions.

Phil offers us a caricature of “anti-imperialist” politics, for example:

To understand the politics of Stop the War, one must delve a little into political history.

Lenin published his little pamphlet, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism back in 1916 when the world has been carved up by the big powers and they were locked in a deathly grip over a redivision of its spoils. 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.

Phil has a PhD and is a clever cookie, so his sleight of hand in introducing the concept of imperialism via Lenin, and by implication with the small groups who still adhere to his thought is a cheap trick. Yes, Lenin did write a pamphlet in 1916 popularising the work of the Austrian social democrat and mainstream political theorist Hilferding.

But more to the point, the British Empire really did exist, and has had an enduring effect on British culture, economic life and politics. Indeed, a contemporary with Lenin, was the British Labour Party thinker, H.N. Brailsford, the author of the 1914 work  War of Steel and Gold  who exercised widespread influence in both the UK and America, influencing the foreign policy positions of the Labour Party. Brailsford also argued that the driver for war was the growing power of finance capital, and that what he called “vast aggregations of modern capital” were engaged in struggle to partition the world. A follower of Brailsford was future Labour Prime Minister, Ramsey MacDonald.

Arguably, Brailsford (and Lenin’s) argument was demonstrably refuted by events. The main imperial threats to British trade interests came from France and Russia, not Germany. Siding with the Entente against the central powers was more a continuation of traditional English policy to intervene to avoid any continental power becoming predominant. While the increasing role of finance capital did go hand in hand with the growth of militarism, it did not play a determining role over specific foreign policy.

Neverthless, what Phil, has done is seek to associate what are actually rather mainstream concerns about Britain’s imperial legacy and military misadventures and over concerns about US militarism, with small groups on the edges of the political spectrum, as a mechanism for not dealing with the actual arguments, and instead seeking to imply that these are odd people with funny  beliefs. This is of course a technique perfected by Nick Cohen, and Phil should take a look at the direction he is taking.

Let us again be clear. 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 led to some misplaced military interventions.

The Stop the War Coalition is criticized by Phil as follows:

Yet, as per the pick ‘n’ mix, the SWP ensured Stop the War had nothing to say about the Iraqi regime, the theocracy in Iran, the repugnant character of the Taliban and so on. The patronising logic was the coalition needed to be kept broad around stopping war, anything else would threaten unity.

In fact there has hardly been any shortage of those offering decontextualised, liberal platitudes about all those complex issues, so this was no gap that STW had to fill. What Stop the War has done instead is focus on the inadequacy of UK military action as a solution. Particularly 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.

For sure, anyone discussing the reality of modern international relations using Lenin as an infallible yardstick maybe a fool, but what do we make of someone seeking to use the boogyman of “Leninism” to delegitimise the main anti war campaign that has sought to hold the government to account for the mountains of bodies and ruined lives in Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan and Syria.

60 Comments

  1. John P reid says:

    So Lenin backing the idea of not fighting the German army ,in the Great War, was similar to not invading Iraq?

    1. Andy Newman says:

      No, I am saying that anyone who discusses the Iraq war from the vantage point of what Lenin would or would not have thought is a fool. Not quite the same thing.

    2. Mick Hall says:

      Yes in the the sense that our main political enemy is at home. Whether it be WW1 or Iraq war once socialists lose sight of that fact they almost always eventually end up as useful idiots in the service of the political elites of the day.

      Good piece Andy

      1. John P reid says:

        But Lenins home was Russia ,and the Germans were invading that

        1. Andy Newman says:

          Actually, in 1917, Lenin’s home was Switzerland.

          But I think you are rather missing the point

          1. John P reid says:

            then he wouldn’t care of the German
            were invading,so why compare him
            to those who want to prevent terrorism
            in the UK

  2. James Martin says:

    “…but what do we make of someone seeking to use the boogyman of “Leninism” to delegitimise the main anti war campaign that has sought to hold the government to account for the mountains of bodies and ruined lives in Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan and Syria.” Indeed, but equally what are we to make of someone who adds to the nasty witch hunt against StWC that is being undertaken by the Progress/Henry Jackson right inside Labour and their media and state allies outside? A witch hunt that is not because StWC positions or internal practices but because it is the main organisation that combats their own permanent war/colonial regime change mentality and so is seen as a threat, and more importantly right now it is seen as a way to attack and undermine Jeremy Corbyn. I know precisely what I make of those that have gleefully and disgracefully joined in such a witch hunt.

  3. Susan O'Neill says:

    Read Burton-Cartledge propagandist elitist view and criticism of the STW and deemed it utter tripe. What amazes me is that someone with a PhD which would indicate the smarts should show such a remarkable lack of intellect in mis-reporting not only the historical facts, but should be so careless with the observable truths as to take both out of context and into Alice in Wonderland territory. This leaves any further offerings by Mr. P. Burton-Cartledge requiring the kind of scrutiny one reserves for all other propagandist works of deliberate misdirection. Shame, he probably had a bright future.

  4. John Penney says:

    I have seldom read such a conglomeration of non-sequitur statements and dishonest arguments marshalled in one article. But then Andy Newman, unreconstructed Stalin apologist as he is, is always notable for the sophistry required to deflect attention from the more unacceptable aspects of our very varied Left traditions.

    The StWC’s “political offer/analysis” leading up to the last Iraq War was steeped in over simplistic generalisations, and a crude pacifism – to enable the campaign to appeal to a huge range of potential supporters from the middle class liberal pacifist to Muslim Brotherhood affiliated Islamic Fundamentalist Far rightists – with every variant of Left winger and anti interventionist Muslim in between. As such, it was hugely successful in mobilising hundreds of thousands around a simplistic , but essentially accurate “It’s all about oil” and associated anti US Imperialism mantra.

    Unfortunately, underlying the simplistic but at the time of the Iraq War, tactically adequate, mobilising slogans , was all the usual gross soviet era sourced misrepresentations of what “imperialism” actually is today. Most of the activist Left, not just the Trot groups and the old Stalinists of the CPB, and their allies in the Labour Party, really did, and do seem to think that “US/Western Imperialism ” is the only major barrier to world peace and socialism. This has led them to imbue the most ghastly fascistic, totalitarian regimes with membership of the fantasy “axis of resistance” – not coincidentally usually made up of old allies of the USSR, eg, Gaddafi’s Libya, Assad’s Syria, Saddam’s Iraq, Serbia. The cost for the left in bestowing this ridiculously “substitutionist” “historically progressive” anti imperialist role on these universally ghastly regimes has been to turn a cynical blind eye to their systematic murderous oppression of their own working classes , socialists, and minority communities. Just as too many on the Left for generations made apologies for the huge crimes of the totalitarian Stalinist regimes masquerading as “socialist states”.

    In today’s Iraq/Syria/Middle East crisis, the simplistic cod pacifism of the StWC in the last Iraq war simply doesn’t cut it as a mobilising mantra any more. Of course the now only too obvious fundamental , ancient, conflict between Shia and Sunni, and their associated local and regional powers driving the current multi factional bloodbath, rather undercuts the daft simplification of StW that the whole thing is solely the outcome of the Iraq War, and British/ French and US Imperialism (undoubtedly hugely implicated as these actors are , both historically and now).

    Sticking rigidly to the “its all, solely Western imperialism’s fault” , requires StW to ignore the huge role of the lesser imperialisms of Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia – and of course Russia. It also involves a systematic ignoring by those on the Left adhering to this simplistic nonsense, of the murderous role in creating the various fundamentalist Islamic groups of the actions of sectarian Assad Alawite/Baathist dictatorship – when over two years it systematically butchered all those attempting to campaign for democratic change in Syria through peaceful demonstrations.

    The StW Lefties have also found their simplistic “everything’s the fault of the West” mantra, and its cod pacifist “No to Western intervention under any circumstances” chant , has required it to totally ignore the needs of the only major secular, non sectarian, women’s rights supporting, often SOCIALIST, genuine national liberation movement in the region , namely the various factions of the oppressed Kurdish national movement. So when the secular, progressive Kurds ask for close air support from whoever will supply it to defend, for instance, Kobane – against the murderous women enslavers and pogromists of the clerico-fascist Daesh, the StWC Left simply ignores their plight. Better for the Kurds to be victims of Daesh and Turkish genocide than the Left has to grasp that sometimes the tactical needs of real people facing immanent destruction trumps the fanciful ideological constructs of UK Lefties – secure in our bourgeois democratic haven !

    Stop the War is today a politically totally compromised organisation, with long roots in accommodating to Islamic Fundamentalist groups, and now , by ignoring its dire role , also giving cover to the continued crimes of the Assad regime and its cynical Russian imperialist backers. The Left needs to rethink its analysis, and form a more principled, tactically flexible, campaigning vehicle to challenge the UK government’s cynical role in the Middle East – including its absolute refusal to challenge the huge role of Turkey and the Gulf states in supporting the Sunni fundamentalists in the conflict – including the clerico-fascists of Daesh.

    Any movement of the UK Left which cannot support the right of the Kurds for national self determination and their right for arms and assistance to fight off the murderous Daesh fascists, and Turkey, is simply not fit for purpose.

    1. James Martin says:

      Are you even in the Labour Party John, because it is quite clear from your lecturing Judean Peoples Front essay that the key points of what is really going on here regarding a dangerous witch hunt against Jeremy has gone straight over your head.

      1. John Penney says:

        Yep, fully paid up member of the Labour Party, James – and on my CLP management Committee — and apart from his mistaken politics vis a vis StWC and Syria, in enthusiastic agreement with Jeremy’s overall politics.

        I suggest you try arguing on actual points of fact and politics, James . Trying to draw a veil over StWC’s ghastly politics in the name of “defending Jeremy” is the worst sort of political dishonesty – all too familiar to those of us old enough to remember similar exhortations to the Left never to criticise the Soviet Union..

    2. gerry says:

      Very long post, John – though very true. Put even more simply

      1. Stop the War is anti -socialist. It allies with jihadis, islamists stalinists and neo stalinists against democratic socialists everywhere.

      2 Stop the War is pro Putin, or as David Ellis so rightly puts it, it is the foreign desk of Putin in London. De facto it backs Russian imperialism everywhere, the theocratic hellhole that is Iran, the murderous psychopath that is Assad.

      3Stop the War is NOT a genuinely pacifist entity, but rather – as Phil rightly put it- an anti Western entity doing everything it can go destroy the UK, the US. It would ally with and back Hitler, Mussolini, Franco and Tojo if they were alive today.

      Andy Newman is simply an apologist – for fascism apologists!

      1. James Martin says:

        Wow, it’s honestly like listening to Hillary ‘Bomber’ Benn all over again, quite uncanny really. But same question to you Gerry, are you even in the Labour Party, because it seems to me that all this ‘I’m a purer socialist than you’ and ‘how many dead stalinists can you get on a head of a pin’ (or whatever it is you lot talk about) would be better kept to one of the many specialist sites catering for the 57 varieties (at least) of ‘left alternatives’.

        1. gerry says:

          James – you should stop your witch hunt against decent socialists in the Labour Party like what I am….sorry, I couldn’t resist.

        2. Lamia says:

          James, those are poor efforts to delegitimise John Penny and Gerry as commenters according to their (presumed) affiliation, instead of engaging with and rebutting their actual arguments.

          Their arguments stand or fall on their own merits/faults. Yours? Well you haven’t even offered any. Now who do you think an undecided reader is more likely to be inclined to sympathise with? The person who takes the efforts to put up their thoughts, or someone else doing an impression of the school monitor?

          1. James Martin says:

            No, I haven’t got any when it come to whether StWC is pro-Putin, likes to holiday in Tehran every June, or whatever else these people seem to get so worked up about, because it misses the real point – StWC is not being witch-hunted by the Henry Jackson Society et al because of those things, but because it is an attack on Jeremy, so just like we didn’t even begin to get into detailed discussions whether Andrew Fisher went a bit far on various tweets when we made the necessary unconditional defence against his witch hunt now is the time to do the same for StWC that I’m not even a supporter of (except once removed via CND), because I will say again, if I have learnt anything in 3 decades of Labour membership you do not aid a witch hunt that is in full flow – and unfortunately the likes of Penney who seem to noit care about the effects of this inside the Party remind me of those sectarians during the 1980s that cheered on attacks on Militant because of how bad Militant were on this or that without stopping to think what the results would be afterwards with an emboldened and strengthened right-wing.

          2. gerry says:

            Lamia – good comment. I think the responses from Andy Newman and James Martin show just how weak their defence of Stop the War really is…they literally cannot argue against the evidence of Stop the War’s poisonous politics, so simply ignore, sidestep and chuck in bogeymen like the Henry Jackson Society to bolster their poor argument.

            One final point: I am a socialist, always have been always will be – why should I show a scrap of solidarity to the cynical stalinists who lead Stop the War, who blatantly and shamelessly are allied with, and backed by self -described enemies of socialism, human rights, freedom and democracy?

        3. Nestor says:

          StWC are the organisation that stated, after Russia invaded and occupied a neighbouring country before covertly invading and instigating a further proxy war “if we have to pick one side, let it be Russia”. The Russia that has an ultra-conservative, ultra-capitalist, homophobic regime that represses and imprisons socialists.

          They also have links with “Solidarity with the Antifascist Resistance in Ukraine”, an organisation that calls for solidarity with a “resistance” that in itself is riven with fascists and anti-semites to the very top.

          The sort of coalition building that StWC advocates is the coalition building that leads to red/brown alliances and throwing fellow socialists under a bus (pace the treatment of trade unionists and leftists in the Donbass, Crimea and Russia itself), the sort of coalition that democratic socialists should have no part in.

          I voted for Corbyn in the leadership election and hope to be able to vote for him in a general election. It does him no favours if we sweep the dark side of the StWC under the rug. Indeed, by pretending it doesn’t exist you merely hand a gift to the Blairite right and the Tories.

          1. Igerry says:

            Nestor – good comments, and very well put.

  5. Phil BC says:

    Thanks for your reply, Andy. A response will come in due course.

  6. Chris says:

    Slavery wasn’t a crime. It was a necessary phase in human economic development and in future decades our current class system will be seen as no better.

  7. James Martin says:

    Thanks to Gerry and Co, you’ve made me actually look at the StWC website (where I enjoyed catching up with great writers like John Pilger and Tariq Ali), and where I saw the interview with Richard Burgon MP which I’d previously missed -http://www.stopwar.org.uk/index.php/news/richard-burgon-mp-criticism-on-stop-the-war-are-proxy-attacks-on-corbyn – and who said everything I was thinking about this being a proxy attack against Jeremy. As a result I’ve now joined StWC for the first time and taken out a monthly DD, and I’d encourage others to do the same. I’ve always opposed sectarianism and the sectarianism displayed on the contributions on this site has been disgraceful while we are trying to fight both a witch hunt against Jeremy and the UK/NATO permanent war and bombing against one country after another.

  8. David Ellis says:

    No we must not back StWC. This would be the equivalent of backing a modern day version of the Stalin-Hitler pact. These Stalinists and neo-Stalinists that back Putin as some kind of champion of anti-imperialism are in a de facto alliance with the European fascist right who see Putin as a bulwark against Western liberalism and the American far right too now judging by Putin’s comments about Trump yesterday. And the support of StWC for the mass slaughter of Syrian by the `legitimate’ regime of Assad puts these people on the other side to any divide I want to be on. I can oppose the bombing of Syria by the West without supporting Assad and Putin thank you very much. Time for this revolting alliance of Putinites and pacifists to be wound up. They only lead this so-called movement because they managed to reduce the anti-Iraq war movement down from three million to 250 pro-Assadists protesting outside the Embassy alongside his thugs.

    The leadership of StWC should be branded with infamy and kicked out of the labour movement.

  9. David Ellis says:

    By the way the `anti-imperialist’ Newman’s and he learned his machine politics in the degenerate SWP idea of the ideal politician is a lash up of Winston Churchill, Mao and Putin. He worships the established fact and the `national’ leader as savior. Where you will never, ever, ever find him is on the side of the masses in revolt.

  10. David Pavett says:

    Andy Newman objects to Phil BC’s piece on Stop the War. While broadly agreeing with PBC’s argument I had my disagreements with it – especially regarding what seems to me to be his obsession with the activities of the SWP and like groups. But what does AN tell us?

    He starts of with three assertions about the wisdom of STW on three issues (Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya). There is no argument so it is presumably meant to be blindingly obvious that they were right in each case.

    Andy lists different interest groups in STW from pacifists to those who believe that British troops can justifiably be used to “protect and promote British territory, citizens and interests”. This latter category is puzzling and he does not include the use of British troops for genuinely humanitarian purposes which don’t promote the aforementioned interests. Is that an impossible notion by definition? Is the intervention of foreign troupes never in the interest of the country which is their target of operation (e.g. the Vietnamese intervention which toppled Pol Pot in Cambodia).

    He also says that “In Britain there is a deep pride in the armed forces, and respect for the ideal of service that they represent. Every family and every community has links to the forces.” Maybe it’s due to my family and circle of friends but I recognise little in these claims. But he is nevertheless right, of course, to say that it is important to hold the government to account on the use of the military.

    Andy admits that STW has recently “published a couple of silly articles” and says that this was a deviation from the general picture. I am not so sure about that and he doesn’t try to justify his claim beyond asserting that “it is not in fact true that Stop the War ever derived its politics from the SWP”.

    But then Andy goes on to make an argument that seems to me to bear out Phil’s concerns. In response to the lattr’s complaint that STW “had nothing to say about the Iraqi regime, the theocracy in Iran, the repugnant character of the Taliban” he says

    In fact there has hardly been any shortage of those offering decontextualised, liberal platitudes about all those complex issues, so this was no gap that STW had to fill. What Stop the War has done instead is focus on the inadequacy of UK military action as a solution.

    This strikes me as pure cop out and the sort of thing that repels many from the left. It is the type of argument that gives the anti-left outpourings of people like Nick Cohen some traction.

    Why should a critique of the Iranian regime consist of “decontextualised, liberal platitudes”? If that is all that is on offer then doesn’t that point to a need for a critique which is based on objective analysis and which is not at all decontextualised or platitudinous? This evasive position lends itself to the idea that the enemies of my enemy are my friends which was, as I understand it, exactly the sort of thing that Phil was questioning. I don’t think that Andy has come near to providing and answer to that concern.

    I would have preferred that Phil had focussed more on what STW actually says and does (or doesn’t say and doesn’t do) than on trying to track the SWP lineage behind it all. But having said that and having read quite a few STW statements which, it seems to me, provide evidence for his claims, I think that the only way to pursue this debate to any sort of sensible resolution is to discuss STW statements and positions in very specific detail. Neither Phil nor Andy do that.

  11. gerry says:

    “Pure copout and the sort of thing that repels many from the Left”… very well put.

    Funnily enough, I loathe giving obviously poisonous groups like Stop the War so much oxygen but articles like this from Andy Newman simply make my blood boil….when, as you rightly argue elsewhere, there is so much hard thinking and medium/long term policy work to do on the economy, the EU, immigration, welfare, let alone health and education: the sort of work that any credible opposition should be doing now after a shattering election defeat. That is of so much more importance to us as a party which wants to connect, inspire and change masses of voters…so – hopefully- lets have no more about this gruesome organisation.

    1. P Spence says:

      Your comments are disgraceful. The West launches one specious war after another on developing nations and you insult the major voluntary organisation in the UK that seeks to resist our imperial aggression. The Labour Party’s history of supporting imperialism and colonialism is not a proud one but under Corbyn that hopefully will now change including developing a foreign policy independent from the USA. Further, for you to say that foreign affairs is a marginal concern for voters is a device to place such debate beyond the democratic process because it raises uncomfortable questions about power that too often liberal and social democrat interventionists don’t want to face ( Trident is another example which until Corbyn was a no go area within Labour ). By the way, I speak as a member both of the Party and STW.

      1. gerry says:

        Not again…all you have done is prove the point that Stop the War is not anti-war, but anti-west. To hate the UK/US is fine, but what is disgraceful is for you to use that hatred to justify your organisation’s most horrific political alliances: with jihadis, islamists, stalinists, neo stalinists, Putin, Assad. Your position is profoundly anti-socialist, P Spence.

  12. stewart says:

    sorry comrades,stop the war coalition are parasites on the backs of all decent human beings and humanity,how the hell can you defend this evil virus called stop the war coalition that compares the isis mass raping of women and children,beheading of the innocents with there arms tied behind there backs,genocide of christians and non sunni muslim minoritys to freedom fighters who fought francos fascists in spain,how dare you defend these vile sectarian and anti semetic racists and bigots of stop the war coalition,deep shame on the lot of you.

    1. James Martin says:

      It is interesting that you should say that. You see so far as I can tell Jeremy and StWC are responsible for zero deaths, not one. Whereas those they have campaigned and marched against have in the same time been responsible for what now must be a million or more deaths as a direct result of their actions. And yet it is those campaigning for peace and against the never-ending wars and bombing waged by the UK and NATO that get the abuse. Funny old world isn’t it?

      1. John Penney says:

        Spare us your smug,”oooh look how clean my hands are” self righteousness, James Stewart.In the specific context of Syria today Your cod pacifism is not only morally unsupportable, but is actually a deliberate selective distortion of reality too.

        Consider the case, yet again, of the only secular, womens’ rights supporting, non sectarian, in many cases avowedly socialist, fighting force in the Syria/Iraq conflict standing up to the well armed murderous clerico- fascists of Daesh- the Kurds.

        Jeremy was asked twice in the Parliamentary debate on the Syrian bombing by other MP’s about the need to directly support the Kurds. In both cases he refused a clear answer – whilst restating his “30 year support for Kurdish self determination ” ! Of course the reality is that in Kobane and across the entire extended Kurd versus Daesh Iraqi/Syrian battlefront it is only the provision of close air support by the (undoubtedly imperialist) USA and others that has enabled the various , mainly poorly armed, Kurdish forces to hold off the extremely well armed (by the their Turkish and Saudi sponsors) Daesh fascists.

        So in this situation the selective cod pacifism of the StWC is not “innocent” of involvement in innocent murder and enslavement, anymore than the continual ignoring of the monstrous crimes of the Assad regime crimes – refusing to campaign for an end to the regime’s indiscriminate barrel bombing of rebel areas, and now the indiscriminate bombing by their Russian (imperialist) allies, leaves StWC with clean hands.

        Refusing to recognise a crime is being committed and then standing self righteously aside – rather than at least offering solidarity to the innocent victims though active campaigning, is the worst form of political cowardice. StWc in its cynical selective sole focus on the (undoubted) crimes of Western imperialism is actually, by default , providing ideological cover to the Assad regime and its Iranian and Russian imperialist allies.

        So give up trying to occupy any moral high ground, James. You and your fellow-thinkers are in fact stooges of the Assad regime, and in refusing to support the right of the secular Kurdish forces right to fight Daesh’s clerico-fascism “by any means necessary” you are by absence of solidarity action , indirectly complicit in the crimes of Daesh too.

        1. James Martin says:

          So you cheered Bomber Benn too?

          1. David Ellis says:

            Benn’s speech was a disgusting piece of rabble rousing more appropriate to the bierkeller than a parliament and just look at the rabble it roused: braying Tories and New Labour war criminals. The same people who in a year’s time when the rapprochement with Tehran has cooled off will be recommending we recognise the Caliphate as a bulwark against Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and Syria from the other side of the sectarian divide in Islam.

            As for the Kurds they are unfortunately either Stalinist groupings now loyal to Putin and Assad like StWC or they are manipulated by the West like the Kurds in Iraq being trained by Turkey. They are certainly no friends of the Syrian Democratic Revolution. They are barely friends of the Kurds.

          2. John Penney says:

            On the contrary, James, Bomber Benn’s and Eagle’s opportunist mirroring of the cynical narrative of the Tories, had nothing to offer the Syrian or Kurdish peoples. Benn, as with the Tories was completely unwilling to nail responsibility for the massive ongoing arms and financial support for Daesh and other extreme fundamentalist Islamic groups on Turkey and the Gulf states – as part of the proxy war being fought between themselves as Sunni powers against their Shia (and Alawite) powers of Assad’s regime, Iran, and Iraq’s sectarian Shia government (plus the cynical imperialist power , Russia – desperate to retain its Mediterranean warm water military port/base.

            Without tackling the underlying regional proxy war within which Daesh thrives, and the need to get rid of the murderous sectarian Assad Baathist tyranny, there can be no peace process in the area. In fact the unravelling of the post 1918 current state boundaries may have gone so far now that no solution on current boundaries is possible.

            So, no, not being trapped in your rigid stalinoid ideological framework , with its narrow soviet-era definition of “imperialism” – and with no illusions that the murderous Assad dictatorship is, or was ever, either a socialist state, or an “anti imperialist” power, I don’t find it necessary to either support the current Tory/Benn barren “do a meaningless bit of bombing as an act of pure theatre” “strategy”, or in contrast, refuse to support the tactical needs of the progressive Kurdish forces to draw down air support and arms from whosoever THEY choose.

            The issue is what is tactically appropriate for the real people fighting fascist tyranny NOW in the area – not fitting everything that occurs into a rigid , pre-set ideological narrative – based on entirely bogus soviet era “Stalino-Marxism”.

  13. stewart says:

    sorry comrades,stop the war coalition are parasites on the backs of all decent human beings and humanity,how the hell can you defend this evil virus called stop the war coalition that compares the isis mass raping of women and children,beheading of the innocents with there arms tied behind there backs,genocide of christians and non sunni muslim minoritys to freedom fighters who fought francos fascists in spain,how dare you defend these vile sectarian and anti semetic racists and bigots of stop the war coalition,deep shame on the lot of you.

  14. Jim Denham says:

    A simple question: what is an organisation called ‘Stop The War’ doing appointing as It’s Chair, someone who supports the bombing of Syria?

  15. David Pavett says:

    I thought Phil BC’s piece was a bit over the top but I also found Andy N’s response unconvincing. But I find really unhelpful is the vitriol with which subsequent exchanges are laced: “disgraceful”, “utter tripe”, “lack of intellect”, “deliberate misdirection”, “dishonest arguments”, “unreconstructed Stalin apologist”, “allies with jihadis, islamists stalinists and neo stalinists”, “an apologist – for fascism apologists”, “cynical stalinists”, “revolting alliance of Putinites and pacifists”, “parasites on the backs of all decent human beings”.

    Some contributions were free of this stuff but it should be evident that a serious debate cannot but be clogged up when so many feel that this sort of thing is a contribution to discussion.

    I don’t know much about STWC. I have my criticisms of the political views of some of its leading figures (I remember Tariq Ali writing in the Guardian in the period shortly after the Iraq invasion, that all groups opposing the US should be regarded as “freedom fighters”) so I am inclined to see some force in some of the criticisms criticisms made. On the other hand if serious accusations are to be made then they need to be made with supporting evidence or not at all.

    1. Jim Denham says:

      What “supporting evidence” do you require, David?

      1. David Pavett says:

        Phrases like “utter tripe”, “lack of intellect” etc express a conclusion reached. Such conclusions may be right but even if they are meaningful debate requires that emphasis is given to the reasons for reaching such conclusions rather than the conclusions themselves. If we don’t do that then there is nothing to latch on to except condemnatory judgements and debate very rapidly reduces itself to a shouting match. I think that is something that we should be working very hard to avoid. I think that Corbyn provides a good example in this respect, even when I don’t reach the same conclusions as him.

        We all reach strong judgements about views which we thing are seriously wrong. I find myself expressing that in short summing-up judgements as do most of us. But then on a second take I try to go through removing all that stuff because it clogs up debate rather than encourages it.

    2. gerry says:

      David – some fair(ish) points. I stand by my description of Stop the War’s poisonous politics, and their backers, leaders,and alliances: the “supporting evidence” – as Jim Denham notes – is all over their website and back pages.Those tweets about Paris, and comparing ISIS to the international brigade were just 2 of literally hundreds of victim blaming, anti Western, pro jihadi, pro Russian imperialism articles and statements since that awful Tariq Ali quote you note. And even at its formation, Stop the War barely condemned the murder of 3000 innocents by Al Qaeda in 1998 and 2001 which provoked and triggered the whole failed “War on terror”. So the evidence against them is overwhelming, David….lets move on and not give these people the oxygen they crave!

      1. David Pavett says:

        Given that open and informed discussion is something for which the Labour Party, not to speak of the left in general, does not have a strong tradition or culture I think we need to think carefully about the way we try to establish it.

        Imagine someone recently brought into, or back into, politics in the wave of enthusiasm generated by the process leading to the election of Jeremy Corbyn. Can we safely assume that such people will immediately know that accusations of “poisonous politics” find their justification “all over” the “websites and back pages” of those accused or even in all “those tweets about Paris”. I don’t think that assumption can be justified and, frankly, even as an old-timer who tries to keep up I have to say that all that stuff is not known to me (I have less than a passing interest in the activities of far-left groupings).

        Therefore these sort of short-hand references have a real capacity to make newcomers (and not only them) feel repelled by the strong emotions expressed about things for which they do not have immediate knowledge.

        We are not here talking about a closed academic debate in which all the participants can be assumed to have broadly the same background knowledge. I therefore think that Corbyn’s idea of a kinder politics needs to be taken to heart.

        If we want to maximise the number of people who get involved having dipped their toes in the water of political activity then we need to drop the short-hand condemnations and justify all the conclusions we reach even if that is sometimes limited to providing appropriate links to the sources on which our judgements are based.

        What I am suggesting is that we need a style of debate which we try to make as inclusive as possible.

        1. gerry says:

          David – your style of debate and political argument is just one style, and others have their own style of debate, which include use of heightened language and emotion, which I also think is perfectly reasonable. I personally try to play the ball not the person and I accept that sometimes I have blurred the line: instead of saying Andy Newman is an apologist for fascism apologists, I should have said:” his politics are those of an apologist for fascism apologists”!

          Your reference to Corbyn’s “kinder politics” is also odd: what on earth does “kinder politics” mean? Jeremy himself has not practised this “kindness” the last 30 odd years: he, John McDonnell and others have said personally vile things about Thatcher, Blair, Ulster Unionists, Israel and on and on, (rightly, some might say), so what you understand by this term I am keen to read? And people like Peter Willsman have said personally abusive things about you, but signs his comments off ” yours in comradeship” – perhaps that is the new ” kinder politics” too?

          Your analogy re new members is also unclear – whereas I don’t want new members to look at Stop the War, see that Jeremy was their Chair, and think that they are a decent organisation…I want them to know that many socialists reject and despise Stop the War, for the reasons I and many others have given: their poisonous politics, and their profound anti-socialism.

          Anyone new to the party or politics who reads this thread now knows there are powerful easy to comprehend arguments against Stop the War, like Phil’s great article, as well as some arguments for them, like Andy Newman’s article which of course I think is weak. Hopefully they will find more out for themselves…..As I wrote before, I actually loathe discussing Stop the War,giving them undeserved oxygen…I would rather we prioritise our political energies in this crucial period, focus on making the ecomonic case for socialism, and other day-to-day issues which all pollsters tell us are the key ones for voters: the EU, immigration, welfare, health. Let’s focus on those things, I say…

          1. David Pavett says:

            David – your style of debate and political argument is just one style, and others have their own style of debate, which include use of heightened language and emotion …

            I would be surprised if many people could read the contributions in this thread and agree with you that trying to avoid strident and emotive condemnations is merely a matter of personal style and that debate can be advanced just as well without making that effort.

            I think that intelligent debate starts with the assumption that people, including oneself, can reach wrong conclusions for plausible and well-motivated reasons. It is kinder, and more intelligent to proceed on that basis.

            I don’t think that abuse is made acceptible by ending it with “yours in comradeship”. Instead it makes those words ring hollow. Rather employing that hoary old leftist jibe that I am arguing from an “ivory tower”, for example, Peter Wilsman should try to show what it is in my argument which shows the detachment from reality impied by that phrase.

            I suggest that if we are to make something of the opportunity provided by Corbyn’s election then we will have many very difficult debates to go through on a wide range of topic. Success in that requires that that we have high standards of toleranceband civility combined with generous assumptionsbabout what motivates those we disagree with. That, at least, is what experience of successful and failed debates suggests to me.

  16. Jim Denham says:

    It’s certainly very unfortunate that JC feels obliged to continue to publicly support this dodgy organisation and its Stalinist leadership – perhaps because of a misplaced sense of loyalty as they come under increased (and deserved) media scrutiny and criticism.

  17. Karl Stewart says:

    I also don’t agree 100 per cent with the political views of every single person within the Stop the War Coalition, but I also supported 100 per cent the protests that StWC organised against the bombing of Syria and attended some of them.
    The key word here is ‘coalition’ it’s a campaign group which organises anti-war protests and it does a brilliant job.
    It’s being attacked by the pro-war, right-wing establishment and we should all defend it.

    1. David Ellis says:

      It is a coalition of the vilest supporters of genocide and gangsterism. Anybody who gives it political cover has some of the blood on its hands. The StWC needs disbanding.

      1. Karl Stewart says:

        Sorry David Ellis, but all you achieve with contributions like that is to give people the impression that you’re a bit bonkers.

        I went to two of the StWC central London protests (the Saturday before the vote and on the evening before the vote) and I found both events very inspiring.

        A few thousand people, mostly a lot younger than me, united in their opposition to bombing Syria. Yes, lots of varying political opinions, many of which I might not agree with, but lively and positive rallies of some very motivated and well-intentioned people.

        StWC deserves a great deal of credit for organising these and many other protests around the country.

        Why don’t you go along ne?

        1. gerry says:

          This is why Stop the War is so horrific – they masquerade as a sort-of-pacifist body and a sort-of-anti-imperialist body when really they are neither: they are 100% anti Western, and their politics welcomes literally anyone – jihadis, Islamic extremists such as the Muslim Association of Britain who helped set them up, stalinists and neo stalinists like the now disgraced Socialist Workers Party who also set them up – in the name of this anti-imperialism. People who don’t know their dreadful lineage and politics may be fooled by the “Don’t bomb Syria” placards, but it is up to socialists/genuine Labour members to tell them the truth: avoid Stop the War and all their works.

          1. James Martin says:

            And yet again, not a mention of NATO, of UK imperialism and the never-ending wars. It’s a sad, mad world you inhabit where those dropping bombs and indulging in regime change after regime change are ignored completely but those that protest against them are somehow the real enemy, but then imperialism always has had a host of supporters in the socialist movement, from H M Hyndman and others raging against the ‘Beastly Bosh’ to the pro-NATO, pro-Trident, pro-War ‘moderates’ now raging against Jeremy for having the affront to turn his back on the arms dealers and all their works.

          2. Karl Stewart says:

            With respect, aren’t you mixing up two things here?

            It seems clear you have strong political disagreements with some of the individuals within StWC and perhaps also with some of StWC’s affiliated/associated organisations, but what I don’t get is why or how you get from that to a complete denunciation of StWC itself?

            Surely the logical thing to do would be to put forward your political disagreements without rather ridiculously condemning the whole anti-war movement – because that makes no sense at all unless your position is one of full support for intervention.

        2. gerry says:

          Karl – you persist in saying Stop the War is synonymous with the anti- War movement. Have you not read Phil’s article or any of the many socialists. who reject Stop the War because they are a) anti-socialist in that they ally with groups who are self described enemies of socialism? b) the creation of Stalinists, Putinites, Islamic extremists c) they blame the victims of Islamic terror for their own deaths- they literally see everything as the fault of “the West” and they ignore Russian imperialism, Assad’s many crimes, jihadist terror.

          For a socialist like me and many of those who like Left Futures, the moral position is to oppose BOTH American imperialism AND Stop the War’s twisted so called movement. So Karl, in short….No to Washington, No to Moscow, No to Islamic fundamentalism, No to Freemarket fundamentalism…and Stop the War is in alliance with at least 2 of them! I say no to all of them.

          1. Karl Stewart says:

            Gerry, yes I did read PhilBC’s article. I disagree with most – but not all – of his substantive political points and I thoroughly disagree 100 per cent with his conclusion. (That a “new” stop the war movement is needed).

            There’s no reason at all why he can’t fully participate in StWC protests with those political viewpoints – why on earth does he seem to think otherwise?

            And I don’t agree that PhilBC’s arguments can be considered in any way typical of the views of socialists, as you seem to imply.

            With all due respect to him, I don’t think it’s unfair to describe him as someone who is on a rightwards political trajectory – from the Socialist Party into the Labour Party and then supporting Yvette Cooper in the leadership election.

            Of course that doesn’t, of itself, invalidate his arguments, but it does indicate that his view is not necessarily typical of all socialists.

            As to your point that I consider StWC to be the anti-war movement, yes I suppose I do think that. That’s based on my experience of StWC being the only organisation to my knowledge that organised anti-war protests against the bombing of Syria.

            I didn’t see any “PhilBC Coalition” protests anywhere, or even any “Gerry Coalition” protests anywhere, for example.

            And in response to your: “No to Washington, No to Moscow, No to Islamic fundamentalism, No to free market fundamentalism”, fair enough, that’s your opinion and, like PhilBC, you’re fully entitled to it.

            Why on earth do you feel that your holding those opinions prevents you from fully participating in StWC protests and activities?

            At the StWC rally I attended in Parliament Square, for example, there were speakers from a range of organisations I neither belong to nor support – the Green Party, the SNP, CND for example.

            But all that was required of them was that they were opposed to the bombing of Syria – and all of them did.

            You really need to be able to understand and grasp the notion of a broad-based single-issue campaign Gerry.

        3. David Ellis says:

          I don’t think so Karl Stewart. I think you should go back to the Stalinist shit pit and hang out that is Socialist Unity where you can all jabber about the legitimate government of Assad and its heroic struggle for survival. The labour movement does not need a pro-Putin fifth column.

          1. Karl Stewart says:

            David Ellis, …and not bonkers in a fun, amusing way, but just in a very dull and grumpy monotone

      2. David Pavett says:

        It is a coalition of the vilest supporters of genocide and gangsterism. Anybody who gives it political cover has some of the blood on its hands

        It seems that you have a strong objection to “anybody” who supports STWC. Some kind of explanation might be in order. Sounding off with simple assertions of opinion does not contribute to political debate.

        1. David Ellis says:

          I think I have made my reasons clear David. These boneheads reduced a mass movement against an illegal war into a Putin fan club of about 250 people that demonstrated outside the US embassy for the right of Gadaffi to flatten Benghazi and shoulder to shoulder with Assad’s goons after his chemical attacks on the Syrian people.

          1. James Martin says:

            Stop fannying around David, you clearly supported the NATO bombing of Libya (that ended up handing much of it to ISIS), and you support the NATO bombing of Syria now. At least your consistent with your reactionary imperialist cheer-leading and positions that always mean that the main, and indeed only, enemy is… abroad.

  18. Karl Stewart says:

    …xt time?

    1. Jim Denham says:

      No response yet to my question: how come StWC has appointed as its Chair someone who *supports* the bombing of Syria?

  19. Jeff says:

    I have been following the STW debate carefully here as a “newcomer” to the backstory and I am trying to make a disinterested judgement about them and their works. I would like to support the comments of Dave Pavett and Karl Stewart who have very accurately articulated my own reaction to what is going on here. The main anti-STW contributors are doing themselves a great disservice in being so venemous and insulting to their opponents. Indeed they are making me wonder what their own “hidden agenda” is and why they are devoting so much energy to bad-mouthing an organisation which has been spectacularly UNsuccessful in achieving its objectives over the last decade? They say it is easy for any interested person to find out the evidence for their sweeping claims about STW, but I can tell you that as a reasonably interested and intelligent non-Marxist person of the left , devoting a bit of my leisure time to tracking down a few links, so far I have not found any smoking guns. I don’t hold STW collectively reponsible for every opinion reposted on their website. What I have found are some very good articles and some not so good. I do not share the shock horror much expressed about either the Freedom Fighters blog or the Whirlwind blog – which were quoted out of context with all nuance stripped out, but hey, that’s politics, isn’t it? I note that most of the contributors in this comments section seem to be “old hands”, well acquainted with each other, and I suspect there are some old personal scores being settled. Am I right or am I right?

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