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The anti-Imperialism of fools

stopthewarEver since IS became the next big bogey to fill the USSR-sized gap in the perceived threats-to-our-existence market, I knew it would be a matter of time before an empty-headed comparison was made between Islamists scuttling into Syria and the volunteers who flocked to Spain to fight fascism in the 1930s. It was no surprise that such a facile observation would come at Stop the War (since deleted but quoted here) , nor that the media would be interested in their sayings and doings thanks to Jeremy’s long-standing links with them.

One of the things I find irritating about a section of the socialist left is its indifference to the politics of soft soaping whoever the White House or Downing Street take exception to internationally, which lets their opponents to lazily – but extremely easily – paint them as well-meaning fools, traitors, and what have you, thereby damaging anti-war causes. This, alas, is also a bind Jez has found himself tied up in. But also, there’s a certain intellectual dishonesty about the position.

Stop the War write op-eds that, let’s be generous, white wash the enemies of the US and UK, but do not link it with a clear intellectual framework for making sense of these position-takings. For the uninitiated, it suggests that opposition to Britain’s wars is a gateway into apologising for some of the most disgusting regimes and terror groups on the planet. 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.

The revolutionary wave ebbed as the 1920s wore on, and looked set to be reversed entirely with the rise of the fascist powers. They were ultimately crushed, mainly thanks to the USSR, and revolutions were either derailed, put down, or co-opted in the West, and contrived or assimilated to the dull tyranny of Stalinism in the East. As the battle lines for the cold war’s 40-odd years were drawn, so the relationship between the Western metropolis and their colonies were redrawn.

Under US leadership, Britain, France, and the lesser colonial powers withdrew and granted independence to newly emergent countries across the global south. This independence, however, was hollow. Economies were locked into dependent and distorted relationships with their industrialised overseers. Where they tried to break free from this grip, semi-colonial states were quickly stamped on – as was usually the case in Latin America – or became battlefronts where the cold war turned hot, as per Africa and south east Asia.

When the Berlin Wall came down and the Soviet Union passed into history, the USA was the power that economically and militarily underpinned this system. It was its champion/guarantor and, logically from a revolutionary perspective, the primary opponent of socialist politics everywhere.

Secondly, an article of faith passed down from the time of Lenin was the notion imperialism accrued super profits, which enabled capital in the metropolitan countries to effectively buy off a “labour aristocracy” who had a vested interest in maintaining capitalist exploitation by virtue of their privileged position within it. It was this layer that stymied the revolutionary aspirations in the main colonial powers, for instance. It could be argued this layer was maintained after the colonies were abolished via international channels of superexploitation, a position that’s none-too-convincing. Yet 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.

That “anything” could be anything. From the Viet Cong to the Provos, from Saddam Hussein’s conscript army to Serbian death squads, all have been cast by one revolutionary outfit or another as proxies for working class struggle. Interestingly, as the strength of labour movements and socialist ideas have ebbed internationally so forces that could very generously be described as part of it, such as the aforementioned, have been substantively replaced by any old reactionary ragtag and bobtail outfit. A case of my enemy’s enemy, even if that enemy is raping and burning, and particularly delights in the torture and murder of fellow socialists and communists. 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. And, indeed, many groups in Britain did just that. Admittedly, it used to be politically consistent propagandising for Cuba and the Viet Cong in the US, and the IRA in Britain as all were (nominally) socialist forces of some description. It started getting a bit trickier when the proxies were the Argentine junta, Iraqi Ba’athism, and Slobodan Milošević. All but the most fringe and irrelevant carry on in this vein.

The key players in Stop the War, up until about 2010 anyway, were the Socialist Workers Party. It was their front, founded in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks to oppose the imminent war on terror, and organised the protests against the bombing and invasion of Afghanistan. Its remit was purposely broad as it sought to make alliances with all kinds of organisations and community groupings. Its single concern was protesting and stopping the hawkish moves of the Blair and subsequent governments, and by extension the actions of the only truly global superpower. All of this is consistent with the anti-imperialist politics outlined above. Yet, the SWP also left its indelible mark of political dishonesty.

Unlike the other main British Trotskyist groups, the SWP and its forerunners, the Socialist Review Group and the International Socialists tried positioning themselves in the so-called “third camp”. ‘Neither Washington Nor Moscow but international socialism‘ was their slogan. They were heretics vis a vis the rest of the Trotskyist “movement” when they refused to support either side in the Korean War. Not that they, or the Fourth International for that matter, had battalions to throw into the furnace. This position was premised on a (correct) understanding that socialism and democracy are inseparable and its absence in the countries crushed under the Stalinist boot meant these regimes were no more worth defending than the capitalist nations – a controversial opinion denounced by Trotters himself.

For the SWP, it was an article of faith that these were ‘state capitalist‘ societies – more of which another time. What this allowed them to do, however, was pick and choose which anti-colonial/anti-imperialist struggles to support. Hence a plus was (eventually) placed against the Viet Cong, and a minus against the Provos. Hailing the killing of British soldiers and the bombing of pubs was never going to sell many papers, after all.

With the collapse of the USSR and the move of the US into pole position, so it became opportune to act as the “best builders” against the wars launched at its behest. And, rare for an organisation noted for the flexibility of its principles, the SWP have been consistent in opposing the State Department’s machinations and the support given it by successive British governments. Yet the picky-choosiness from its cold war days remains, which it imparted to Stop the War. as we’ve seen, it was founded to stop war – nothing else – and to build alliances to that effect.

In the lead up to the Iraq War, the SWP organised the giant anti-war demo in conjunction with CND and the Muslim Association of Britain, an organisation known for its links with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. As Muslims had been targeted by the far right and were then, as now, on the receiving end of media monstering, the SWP believed that reaching out to what it believed to be one of its principal organisations would integrate them into the anti-war movement and, of course, provide the party with recruits. 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.

Since those halcyon days, the SWP have suffered split after split. The 2009/10 parting with former central committee members Lindsey German, Chris Nineham, and John Rees that led to the formation of Counterfire saw the SWP’s grip on Stop the War loosen, but more or less the same personnel carry on as before – albeit under new party branding. The politics more or less remain as well. Yet as the years have worn on, the economic crisis has bitten, the power of the US is clearly in relative decline and rising China, coupled with a more combative and confident Russian oligarchy, gives us at least the appearance of a multi-polar global polity again.

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.

This article first appeared at All that is Solid


  1. Stephen Bell says:

    What a lousy article! Stop the War is being attacked for organising against revolting imperialist wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, and for being proved right that chaos would ensue. Rather than defend the campaign against pro-war critics, Phil chooses to essay the “real socialist” argument against its activists.

    He puts an equal sign between a deeply stupid article which was immediately taken down, and 14 years of devoted work by campaigners up and down the country. In this, he is no different from those being paid in the Telegraph, Mail etc to discredit the anti-war movement.

    On Saturday, we organised 10,000 people to oppose the bombing of Syria. We shall continue to organise against our government’s vile policy in the region. We stand by our record.

    And Phil’s new, correct, anti-war movement will never appear, because it is premised on vilifying the real opposition to Britain’s imperialist wars.

    1. gerry says:

      Stop the War is everything Phil says and worse – a poisonous, horrific unprincipled pro Putin pro Islamist anti-west entity. It is not even a genuinely pacifist organisation so when Rees, German, Milne et al say they are “for peace” you know they speak with forked tongue… the rubbish dump of history with them, alongside the SWP, Counterfire, TUSC, Respect and the rest of the anti-socialist left. And – somehow – persuade Corbyn, Abbott, McDonnell to kick this disgusting organisation into touch: we can but hope…

  2. A brilliant article, although I really haven’t digested it all yet.
    I would just like to comment on the passage about after 1945, when “… colonial powers withdrew and granted independence to newly emergent countries across the global south. This independence, however, was hollow. Economies were locked into dependent and distorted relationships with their industrialised overseers.”

    Deriding sovereignty as merely symbolic is a traditional leftist attitude. But according to Shahid Alam’s Economic Impact of Colonialism
    According to Alam, in the 19th century “… lagging countries [i.e. less developed countries] which were free and chose to resist the logic of international integration – to save, shore up and modernize their manufactures, enterprises and skills – continued to industrialize, to grow and to narrow their economic distance behind the advanced countries.

    A country can structure its integration into the world economy if it has the power to decide when, how fast and how far to integrate; what markets to integrate; and with whom to integrate… Global markets were both shaped and superseded by the actions of states, so that we cannot understand how the global economy took shape – and how different countries were assigned different functions in this economy – without also examining the distribution of power amongst states: which countries had the power to shape and supersede market forces.”
    Of course the most prominent example of this thesis is Japan.
    Alam claims that this thesis applies to neo-colonies as well — i.e. that independence prompted a large increase in growth rates, even in apparently hopeless cases.
    Alam claims that he has proven this hypothesis by analysing the historical growth figures of numerous countries.

  3. Jim Denham says:

    Surprise, surprise: a lot of the more ‘interesting’ articles (including anti-Semitic stuff) have mysteriously disappeared from StWC’s website over the last few days: fortunately, a public-spirited citizen has made sure that they’re preserved for posterity.

  4. Jim Denham says:

    Jeremy Corbyn’s attendance at lest night’s Stop The War Coalition (StWC) dinner, and his continuing refusal to sever links with – or even criticise – the group, causes some of us who generally wish him well, a real problem.

    There can be no doubt, and there hasn’t been for several years, that the StWC is not primarily anti-war per se, but opposed to Western wars, whilst remaining at best indifferent to wars and interventions by non-Western forces.

    StWC’s Lindsey German complains in today’s Morning Star, that “there are accusations that we are pro-Assad, pro-Isis, don’t support the Syrians. Every war we have opposed has seen these accusations raised. We were accused of supporting the Taliban, Saddam Hussein, Gadaffi in Libya and now Assad. It has never been true, and it is the weakest of arguments for those supporting war that their opponents of necessity support the other side.”

    Now, of course, German is right that opposing a war being waged by your own ruling class does not of necessity involve supporting the other side: but German is lying when she denies that StWC does just that. She’s lying because she, like most of the rest of the StWC leadership subscribe to a crude version of Lenin’s strategy of revolutionary defeatism, which in their hands amounts to little more than “the main enemy is (always) at home”, or indeed, “my enemy’s enemy is my friend.”

    German and her partner John Rees know this (and lie about it) because they were in the leadership of the SWP in 2001 and were responsible for Socialist Worker‘s gloating response, to 9/11 and for the SWP’s “line” of refusing to condemn the atrocities. It is a methodology that has informed the approach of the StWC ever since, even if the likes of German, Rees and Murray lie about it and/or resort to evasion. Surprise, surprise: a lot of the more ‘interesting’ articles (including anti-Semitic stuff) have mysteriously disappeared from StWC’s website over the last few days: fortunately, a public-spirited citizen has made sure that they’re preserved for posterity.

  5. David Pavett says:

    I think that Phil BC has an over-active interest in the activities of left-wing fringe groups. I suppose this is because of his one-time involvement with them. Be that as it may, I think that discussing major political issues in terms of the intellectual meandering of such groups is a real turn-off for those newly interested in politics.

    Having said that I am in substantial agreement with main thrust of the article (setting aside various quibbles) which I think is that the logic of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” is often found on the left is so simplistic that it is seriously misleading and has to be clearly rejected.

    An example of such simplistic thinking is the Stop the War line that while terrorist attacks on our streets are to be condemned they are a natural result of our foreign policy. The obvious retort is that any strong commitment to combating mad groups like ISIL/Daesh would involve a kick back. (Jeremy Corbyn’s argument is that cutting off the supply lines would be more not less effective than bombing.) Does this mean that we should engage in no such opposition to their designs? I guess that some Stop the War supporters (along with its leaders) just haven’t thought this through.

    1. Robert says:

      We have to do something bombing alone is not going to do much, except I suspect kill the people who are innocent.

      Syria is so much of a mess we would be better leaving it to those other countries, after all how many planes do you need to kill and bomb people.

      The mess we left Iraq is still the one thing we can be sure we will do again.

      In the end ISIS will grow until we either have to work with it or we will need to go to total war. and the removal of Assad looks to be forgotten now.

      1. David Pavett says:

        I don’t see how your comments is a reply to anything that I wrote.

        P.S. I think all your assumptions in your last paragraph are either highly debatable or plain wrong ([1] that ISIS will continue to grow – by implication indefinitely, [2] that we will ultimately have to work with it or enter total war against it, [3] the removal of Assad is now forgotten.)

  6. Jim Denham says:

    … (continued from my last comment) …
    A classic example of such dishonest evasion can be found in StWC Chair Andrew Murray’s answers to John Harris’s uncharacteristically probing questions, published in today’s Guardian – for instance:

    “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.”

    The fact that Andrew Murray is StWC chair, and a Communist Party of Britain (CPB) member raises some further interesting questions about the underlying politics of the StWC.

    On the 19th of October Murray expressed this judgement:

    The only solution to the dreadful civil war which has laid waste to Syria is a negotiated diplomatic end, says Andrew Murray.

    The clear need is not for Britain to jump further into this toxic mix. It is for a negotiated diplomatic end to the dreadful civil war which has laid waste to Syria. Ultimately, only the Syrian people can determine their own future political arrangements.

    But the foreign powers could assist by all ending their military interventions, open and clandestine, in Syria – ending the bombing and the arming of one side or another.

    They should further promote peace by abandoning all the preconditions laid down for negotiations. Such preconditions only serve to prolong the conflict and to give either government or opposition hope that foreign military and diplomatic support could somehow lead to all-out victory.

    On the CPB’s site he has added this, (no date),

    Our bipartisan armchair strategists are obviously riled by Russia’s escalating military involvement in Syria. But it is a fact. What form of military intervention could now be undertaken which would not lead to a clash with Russia they do not say. Even the head of MI6 has acknowledged that “no-fly zones” are no longer a possibility, unless the NATO powers are prepared to countenance conflict with Moscow.

    This is the CPB’s view, expressed on the 14th of October.

    In a statement today Communist Party general secretary Robert Griffiths said:

    The Communist Party maintains its opposition to US, NATO and British military intervention in Syria. Whatever the pretext – whether to defeat the barbaric ISIS or to rescue civilian populations – the real aim is clear: to strengthen the anti-Assad terrorist forces (Islamic fundamentalists who have largely displaced the Free Syrian Army ‘moderate opposition’), create areas in which these forces can operate freely (in the guise of ‘no-fly zones’ and ‘safe havens’) and ultimately to partition Syria and replace the Assad regime with a compliant puppet one.

    Russian military forces are now attacking all the anti-Assad terrorists, including Isis, at the invitation of the Damascus government – which has every right to issue such an invitation as the internationally recognised political authority in Syria.
    •Is Andrew Murray saying that his comrades in the CPB should change their ‘line’ that Russia has “every right” to bomb in Syria?
    •Does he genuinely support, against the policy of the party to which he belongs, the formal, avowed (if generally disregarded) policy of the StWC?

    The fact that Murray, and StWC as a whole, apparently feels no need to address that question, let alone answer it, is further proof of what a dishonest, hypocritical and politically bankrupt organisation it is. They seem to have a fig leaf, formal, position of opposing Russian bombing in Syria that can be called upon they’re under pressure in the media, whist in reality doing nothing about it and appointing as their chair someone who, as far as can be judged, supports both the Assad regime and the Russian bombing campaign.

    The difficulty those of us who understand this, but are generally in the Corbyn camp, have, is how to make this point whilst not lining up with the right wing who just want to use this as part of their campaign to undermine and eventually remove Corbyn. Not an easy balancing act to maintain, but an essential one.

  7. Will says:

    Interesting article putting Some of STW otherwise incomprehensible statements and positions in context.
    One point though.
    “imperialism accrued super profits, which enabled capital in the metropolitan countries to effectively buy off a “labour aristocracy” who had a vested interest in maintaining capitalist exploitation by virtue of their privileged position within it.”

    In my life time progress has only been possible at times of prosperity and optimism, insecure work, unemployment and poverty encourage people to keep their heads down and conform.
    This government realises this.

  8. Jim Denham says:

    Hal Draper explains how ‘Stop The War’ get revolutionary defeatism wrong:

    1. Will says:

      I’ve often wondered how people have used some sort of convoluted logic, belief in a long term strategy, or what ever to attack progressive Movememts and support Tyranny.
      These people are to clever by half. Life is not like a game of ches. Nobody can be sure what the consequence of any action or event will be.

  9. Stephen Bell says:

    It is defamatory to accuse people of lying because you disagree with their politics. I am surprised the moderator has not removed these posts.

    1. Jim Denham says:

      “defamation” is a statement that isn’t true. I think I’ve provided sufficient evidence to show that when I accuse the StWC leadership of lying, that’s a charge I can back up with evidence.

      1. Stephen Bell says:

        You accuse Lindsey German of lying. Yet there is not one instance you provide of her supporting Taliban, Hussein, etc. If you cannot provide an instance of this “lie”, from her own statements, articles or speeches on behalf of Stop the War then the accusation is defamatory to Lindsey, and Stop the War.

        Your suggestion that “German, Rees and Murray lie about it and/or resort to evasion” is also defamatory. There are no statements on behalf of Stop the War made by these spokespersons which provide evidence of your assertion. You obviously can’t grasp that STW as a broad based campaign contains many opinions, but that its representatives confine themselves to agreed positions to maintain the unity of the campaign. That is what responsible leaders of a mass movement have to do.

        You fail to accept the fact that Andrew Murray has every right to defend the CPB’s line when he speaks on their behalf. That also applies when he speaks on behalf of Unite, or Stop the War. He operates within the accountability pertinent to the organisation he represents. It is defamatory to call this lying.

        1. gerry says:

          The evidence against Stop the War is overwhelming: as Phil says, they will ally with anyone – jihadists, islamic extremists, Putin, Assad, Iran’s murderous theocrats – in order to try to destroy the UK on “my enemy’s enemy” lines. All decent socialists find them repulsive, repellent, profoundly dishonest – most of us who have commented on Left Futures for years know how awful they are. If you want to keep defending them, fine…just don’t expect an easy ride from lefties like us.

  10. Mick Hall says:

    The media campaign has very little if anything to do with attacking StW and everything to do with smearing Corbyn.

    Phil and Jim due to their deep immersion in the sects have demonstrated why few workers will give them the time of day. They like nothing better than to attack a section of the left which doesn’t dance to their tune.

    I had hoped when Phil joined LP he would have left all this behind and concentrated his undoubted powers on what matters exposing the Tories and supporting the new LP leader. In the main he has done this but with this piece he has let himself down.

    Phil ask yourself, who started the current brouhaha about StW, you, Jim, some Trot, or was it our political enemies the tories and the Blairites in the LP?

    Some time it is best to say nothing if you have nothing nice to say.

    When Mandelson said to Blairites keep calm for now and wait to the left get disappointed with Corbyn, he knew a section of the left well.

  11. David Ellis says:

    StWC needs breaking up and abolishing. It is nothing more than the foreign desk of Putin’s imperialist adventurism. They want the West to stop bombing Syria because they believe that right belongs exclusively to Putin. It is his sphere of influence as far as they are concerned even though the West and Putin are now in alliance to carve up Syria between them saving Assad in the process. The limits of the political ambitions of these neo-Stalinists and ex-Stalinists is a balance of power arranged between the world’s five or six major imperial powers above the heads of the seven billion imposing `peace’ on the world. What they will never support is revolution which they roundly black guarded in Syria in the name of a very bogus `anti-imperialism’. No wonder Syrian revolutionaries despise them almost as much as they despise Assad, Putin and ISIS. The reality is the major powers, the robber bandits of imperialism, with the collapse of capitalism in 2008, the rapid unraveling of capitalist globalisation and the defeat of the Arab Spring are closer than ever to world conflagration than ever before. There are no more buffer states or zones between them. Everywhere they are butting up against each other. Everywhere tensions are rising. StWC are part of that process. We need a left that supports the masses in struggle and politically. These neo-Stalinists are the enemies of socialism.

    1. James Martin says:

      True to form Comrade Ellis your venom is for Putin and Stalinists (or is it just Russians?), but yet again not a single mention of US and British actions or NATO, because for you comrade the main, and indeed in your case the only, enemy is always abroad isn’t it?

  12. Chris says:

    I’d say the anti-imperialism of fools is stuff like this article, which seeks to divide the anti-war movement into acceptable and unacceptable segments.

    1. Jim Denham says:

      But there *are* “acceptable and unacceptable segments” of the anti-war movement: and unfortunately the StWC is made up largely of the “unacceptable” (for socialists, democrats and anti-fascists) segment – plus their useful idiots.

  13. John Penney says:

    An important article, and one which the Left generally, and Jeremy in particular, need to get their heads around – which clearly explains the faulty Stalino/Trot politics behind the StWC’s very selective concentration on only the US-led intervention in Syria – whilst choosing to ignore the murderous Assad regime’s atrocities – which so far dwarf the barbaric atrocities of the clerico-fascists of Daesh by a considerable degree.

    One aspect of the really quite extraordinary political compromises the leadership of StWC/SWP made with blatantly Islamic fundamentalist groups in the UK and elsewhere that also needs highlighting is the very crude financial factor driving the pretty financially bankrupt SWP by the 1980’s. The large full time ” career cadre” of the SWP could no longer be financed by an ever shrinking membership, so I have no doubt that a lot of the collection buckets filled by the vast Stop the war demos ended up helping out the coffers of the SWP.

    Still, at least the SWP doesn’t seem to have behaved as badly as the now defunct WRP – who eventually ended up being financed by Gaddafi and Assad – and actually grassing up regime dissidents to their paymasters !

  14. prianikoff says:

    “Ever since IS became the next big bogey …I knew it would be a matter of time before an empty-headed comparison was made between Islamists scuttling into Syria and the volunteers who flocked to Spain to fight fascism in the 1930s.”


    I heard exactly the same comparison made by a Muslim activist at a public meeting 14 years ago.
    He was referring to the Mujahideen in Afghanistan who , as we know, were funded and armed by the USA!

    After the meeting, a big bearded bloke in sun-glasses corralled all Muslims he could find and told them that they shouldn’t be working with the “Kuffrs” in Stop the War.

    He was so absurd I thought he must be a police agent for sure!

    1. James Martin says:

      I actually realised how dangerously wrong the SWP’s superficially attractive ‘state capitalist’ line on Stalinist regimes was during that time, because it was clear to anyone with any sense that the Red Army was acting a progressive force in Afghanistan (albeit one that had possibly unwisely initially taken sides in a conflict between two wings of the Afghan Communist Party) and needed to be supported against the US/UK backed ‘rebels’ (i.e., Islamic fundamentalists and international jihadists like bin Laden). Now history is to an extent repeating itself in Syria, although sadly the Russian forces are not Red any more.

      1. Jim Denham says:

        I did not subscribe to any of the various “state cap” analyses of the USSR, but fail to see how support for Soviet imperialism in Afghanistan (a seriously misguided view imho, but that’s not the point) disproves it, or has anything top do with that particular debate. I seem to recall that some “state caps” supported the Soviet invasion at the time.

        PS for what it’s worth it seems obvious to me that the USSR was a form of bureaucratic collectivism.

        1. James Martin says:

          The SWP supported the Islamic ‘rebels’ in Afghanistan, although they did also use the term ‘imperialist’ to describe the Soviet Union which was nonsense as well (what finance capital did it export and impose on world markets?). The key was what social forces in Afghanistan were being supported following the anti-feudal revolution that led to the Red Army involvement, and they were progressive ones that focussed on secularism and women’s liberation. It was scandalous fr any socialist not to support that.

          1. prianikoff says:

            Brezhnev made a major political mistake when he sent the Red Army into Afghanistan, because it handed the national question to the Mujahedeen on a plate.

            As Zbigniew Brzezinski has admitted, the US began sending aid to the Mujahedeen 6 months before the invasion. Their aim was to create an “Afghan trap”, which would draw the USSR into its own Vietnam.

            During “Operation Cyclone”, the CIA consciously supported those Islamist groups which had links with the Pakistan intelligence service I.S.I. The subsequent blowback led (amongst other things)
            to the formation of Al Qaeda, 9-11, the Afghan invasion of 2001, the Iraq invasion of 2003 and the rise of the Taliban.

            At the time, Stalinists of various stripes hailed the Soviet bureaucracy for sending the Red Army into this trap. The SWP made the opposite error, hailing the Mujahedeen as a” genuine national liberation movement”.

            “Workers Liberty’s” adoption of the theory of Bureaucratic Collectivism since the dissolution of the USSR adds absolutely nothing to the debate. In fact, it creates further insoluble theoretical problems.

            What’s clear is that many of the people who protest the loudest about “Russian Imperialism” today, believe it existed during World War 2, or that the Soviet Union was “imperialist” from its inception.
            Typically such groups have ended up supporting counter-revolutionary armed interventions by their own ruling class.

  15. Bazza says:

    Yes the International Brigade answered the call to fight for democracy, peace, freedom and equality.
    Whilst IS fights to smash all of this.
    But remember the dreadful sectarianism on the side of those fighting with the republic which didn’t help the cause.
    Also whilst our Govt offered bandages etc. the Nazi’s sent in planes.
    I recommend Paul Frolich’s biography of Rosa Luxemburg where I leant that real socialism was grassroots, bottom up, participatory and democratic to which I would add peaceful – what socialism was always meant to be.
    A riveting read, and Paulo Freire is also truly wonderful.
    If you haven’t read them should be in every Left democratic socialists Xmas stocking!

  16. Laurie Rhodes says:

    The Democratic Left has suffered continual setbacks since the re-emergence of free-market politics in the 1980’s. A very strong argument can be made that the Whigs and Liberals, both once magnets for the disempowered were destroyed by adopting laissez-faire principles above determined principles as to the absolute rights of human beings. As with the 1870s and 1930s, the current mesmerisation with “the market” has come close to destroying the Labour party as looming economic, social and environmental collapse continues to draw ever closer.

    For any student of Political History Lenin has value, as does Adam Smith for that matter. The tragedy is that the academic tradition from whence the Labour Party itself was born is largely forgotten. With the free-market dominance infused in all areas of our current society, the arguments and rationale that motivated the founders of the Labour party & movement are more topical than they have been for decades. The New Constitution of the Labour Party, published in 1918, ( is the type of positive affirmation of values that Labour was built upon & is (hopefully) on its way to rediscovering. At its heart has always been a commitment to genuine democracy and opposition to oppression in all forms.

    Any broad based movement will include a myriad of people of different backgrounds and beliefs… that’s its strength. If the Stop the War Coalition were to adopt a comprehensive analysis into the use of power, along with a policy framework advocating prescriptions for international relations it would effectively become a political party. Attacking a single-issue coalition… especially when we believe in the justness of its cause appears counter-productive.

  17. David Ellis says:

    The neo-Stalinist Rees and the Stalinist Murray should write a book: How I Turned a Mass Movement Against an Illegal War into 250 Pro-Assad, Pro-Putin Nut Jobs with a Handful of Useful Pacifist Idiots to Cover For Them.

    Let’s face it the SWP and the CPB waited for the mass movement to leave the streets and then worked their bureaucratic and sectarian asses off to split, confuse, downsize and whittle away the movement until it had control of what was left: the same as what they had control of in the first place. Actually less because the SWP exploded in the meantime leaving StWC to Counterfire.

  18. James Martin says:

    I’m only a StWC supporter once removed (via membership of CND), and I don’t pay attention to it, however at a time when it is under sustained attack from the right-wing media, Tories and Blairites the question needs to be asked why is Phil B-C giving them a hand? Because the fact is Phil, StWC (and with them Jeremy Corbyn) is not actually under such huge attacks because it is soft on Assad or whatever. It is under a coordinated attack by our enemies because it is the organisation that is, for all its faults, challenging the permanent war by the UK in the Middle East, that challenges NATO and its warmongering lies, and that challenges the cosy consensus of the Progress/Henry Jackson Society right wing inside the Labour Party with US imperialism and the arms industry. And to join the attack on the StWC in those circumstances is not only unwise, it is also unforgivable.

    1. gerry says:

      You may not like Phil’s analysis , but he is spot on, and worse Stop the War is deeply, profoundly anti- socialist to boot. Don’t waste your breath defending them – instead, forward this article and comments to everyone you know: it is the best socialist response to this horrific anti- revolutionary organisation ever.

      1. James Martin says:

        That’s right Gerry, those like Progress in The Labour Party and the Daily Mail without are happily and remorselessly attacking StWC on a daily basis because they simply aren’t ‘socialist’ or ‘revolutionary’ enough. Give your head a wobble lad!

    2. David Ellis says:

      I challenge all those things but manage to do it without supporting Russian warmongering and Assadist genocide.

      1. James Martin says:

        And yet again David, do you actually know what the term ‘genocide’ means (hint, it is very specific, and also very insulting to those who have been its victims to misuse it)? Because I’m assuming that you actually know that the figures the Western media loves to use regarding things like civilian deaths in the Syrian civil war are highly contested, not least because the Syrian opposition groups include in their number armed rebel militia and jihadist fighters that have died in battle on the basis that they are ‘civilians’?

        1. Jim Denham says:

          So those of us who’ve been raising these criticisms of the StWC for years must now stay silent because the right have started criticising them as well? Obviously, we need to consider our words carefully under these circumstances, but I for one refuse to shut up, in effect, at the behest of the right.

          1. James Martin says:

            There is a time and a place. What we have right now is a lynch-mob of our enemies without (Tories, right-wing media etc.) and enemies within (Progress, Henry Jackson Society etc.) that are using StWC to attack Jeremy in particular and those who argue for peace or against NATO in general. It is a very deliberate and dangerous attack, and calls in fact for solidarity not joining in with the attacks. In fact some on here remind me of those idiots during the Great Miners Strike who did nothing except bang on about ballots when miners were being literally crushed by the state as ‘the enemy within’. Now StWC, Corbyn, Corbyn supporters and Momentum are the new enemy within and are being attack systematically by the state – any socialist that joins in at this dangerous moment in time needs to be utterly ashamed.

        2. gerry says:

          The Labour Party doesn’t need “friends” like Stop the War: they are not and never will be our allies, and I say this as a Labour leftie since 1979

          Momentum are potentially a good thing, but the closer their spokespeople ally themselves with Stop the War the more discredited Momentum has become- but as of now I/we are still willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. Jeremy Corbyn’s weakest link has been his alliance/support for Stop the War and people like Seumas Milne, Andrew Fisher, George Galloway…I am with him on most other political lines, esp on the ecomony and providing a real alternative to the Tory neolib consensus.

          But on this he is 100% wrong being a mouthpiece for such a dishonest anti- socialist organisation – its a shame you don’t see that: David Ellis, David Pavett, Jim Denham, John Penney, Phil Burton Cartledge, me and others rarely agree on anything: but we all agree that Stop the War is politically poisonous!

          1. James Martin says:

            You left out Simon Danzcuk, Tristram Hunt, Ian Austin, Emma Reynolds, Pat McFadden, Ben Bradshaw and all the rest of the Progress/Henry Jackson right from your list Gerry. Not very good company to be in right now, but clearly you are happy to join in with their kicking. As I said, shameful.

          2. Makhno says:

            “You left out Simon Danzcuk, Tristram Hunt, Ian Austin, Emma Reynolds, Pat McFadden, Ben Bradshaw and all the rest of the Progress/Henry Jackson right from your list Gerry.”

            And STwC share their pro-Putin, pro-Assad stance with the BNP, James, so I guess that makes them evil Nazifascists by association?

  19. Jim Denham says:

    Let’s be frank: The StWC are a bunch of pro-Assad Stalinists and ex-SWP’ea who have degenerated into de facto Stalinism. Their record is one of backing all sorts of nasty anti-Western forces, including the anti working class killers of trade unionists of the Iraqi “resistance”.

    Corbyn should break with them. As long as he continues to back them, many of us weho wish him well but are aware of the politically and morally criminal nature of the StWC, will continuie to have a real problem: and we will not remain silent.

    1. James Martin says:

      I think what is most telling here is that in all the bile you and others have spewed out against StWC (you should write for the Daily Heil), you have not mentioned once – not once – the real enemy we face, western military attacks, NATO, regime change neo-con ideology (that is represented in Labour by the likes of the HJS), the arms industry and its links to British politicians and foreign despotic regimes, the scandal of wasting millions of Trident WMD’s etc. You don’t like an existing organisation that opposes all of that, fine, don’t support it, create your own. But no, rather than attack the real enemy you spit your sectarian bile at a hugely dangerous time for the left where we are going through a massive witch hunt focused on Jeremy, John Mc., Diane Abbott (with added vile sexism and racism), Momentum etc., and just like the witch hunt against Militant in the 1980s we should not in any way aid the witch hunters – which is exactly what you and others are doing here and it is utterly shameful.

      1. John Penney says:

        Dearie me , James Martin. Your arguments for simply ignoring StWC’s blatant soviet era sourced dishonest partiality about the huge anti working class crimes of vicious dictatorships (eg, Iran, Syria’s Assad, Gaddafi’s Libya – and Putin’s façade democracy Russian oligarchy) because , ludicrously, they are supposed to be part of some entirely fictional “axis of resistance” against US Imperialism, is all too familiar. This was always the bogus arguments put up by the Communist Party apologists for socialists to ignore the tyranny of the world’s various Stalinist tyrannies.

        Sadly the ever dwindling forces of Trotskyism have nowadays fully taken on board this “substitutionist” nonsense – whereby socialists are enjoined to ignore the huge crimes against fellow socialists and their working classes by the Iranian theocracy, and the Assad regimes – so we can all “focus on the only real worldwide enemy , ie Western Imperialism”. What compromising political piffle !

        The bourgeois press and Jeremy’s political enemies in the PLP are giving StWC a very hard time. Unfortunately it is the StWC leadership’s utterly compromised politics which makes them so vulnerable to these attacks. When StWC starts seriously campaigning against the Assad regime’s huge atrocities/barrel bombing/ gas attacks/its militia murder gangs – and the use of white phosphorous against civilian areas by the Russian airforce, and starts supporting the right of progressive secular Kurdish forces to secure close air support from whosoever THEY judge appropriate – then , and only then, all socialists will be able to support this currently highly dodgy organisation against the capitalist press. Not before.

        Just because right wing writers like Robert Conquest produced a lot of books detailing the huge crimes of Stalinism doesn’t mean that the Purges didn’t happen , James – or that they could be ignored and go unopposed by genuine socialists.

        1. gerry says:

          James – it is you who should hang your head in shame by defending the indefensible: Stop the War Coalition. Why don’t you – as everyone from John Penney, David Ellis, Jim Denham and others including me – do both: condemn the US miltary-industrial complex and those who support it, AND condemn the vicious anti- socialist pro- Russian imperialism, pro jihadist totally amoral and worthless organisation that is Stop the War, led and directed by repulsive stalinists, Putinites, Islamic extremists and anti-socialists. That is the only moral, and socialist position, James. Stop the War in fact aids US imperialism, making even the useless Tristram Hunt seem sensible!

        2. gerry says:

          John Penney – good stuff.

        3. Stephen Bell says:

          Perhaps John Penney should provide some (one?) examples of this “dishonest partiality” by providing some quotes from STW spokespeople which prove this is our policy?

          If not drop the defamatory suggestion of dishonesty.

          The largest party representation in STW is from Labour Party members. Maintaining an alliance between the anti-war movement and the Labour leadership is crucial if Jeremy Corbyn is to be successful. He understands this, hence his refusal to be intimidated by the bourgeois offensive.

          Those joining in this offensive, because of their “better” understanding of socialism are either dupes, or workerist liberals.

          1. John Penney says:

            Stephen Bell, try actually reading my post. As I described previously, tThe “trick” of the StWC in disseminating its highly partial view of the Middle East conflict is generally (leaving out the odd bonkers post on its website likening recruits to Daesh to the International Brigade, etc ), is to simply ignore the barrel bombing, mass murder and torture of the Assad regime, and the indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas by the Russians. StWC simply ignores the plight of the secular Kurdish forces facing the well armed , women enslaving, mass murdering clerico-fascist army of Daesh. Stwc hides behind an entirely cod “pacifism” – which of course actually means opposition ONLY to US led intervention. Which means that StWC actually refuses to support the right of the Kurdish fighters , the only mass force in the entire conflict adhering to secular, womens’ rights supporting, non sectarianism, and in many cases SOCIALIST in ideology, to draw down vital close air support from the US – even though this close air support definitely helped recapture Kobane and many other towns under Daesh’s barbaric rule only recently.

            The valiant Kurds are simply a political embarrassment to the StWC types – lost forever in their highly selective understanding of “imperialism”. ie. it’s only a Western US-led phenomena – whereas the struggles for local and regional hegemony by the likes of Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, etc, are “something else” (maybe a “progressive battle against the Great Satan” – which is in some incomprehensible way driving forward the world socialist agenda ? gawd help us from such “substitutionis” political blindness to the reality of sundry local and regional tyrannies – who would all shoot the, comfortably safe in their bourgeois democratic havens, StWC Lefties on sight !).

            And lastly, StWC apologists, spare us the bogus definition of “imperialism” as always being intimately and essentially and solely tied up with the export of capital , a la Lenin’s book on the subject. Imperialism has of course many drivers, and the regional and local battles between powers like Russia and Iran and Turkey, and Saudi Arabia, etc, are of course also captured by the broader term of “imperialism” too. Trying to define “imperialism so as to “prove” that the aggressive expansionism of Saudi Arabia, or Iran, or Turkey, or Russia, isn’t a form of Imperialism – so we can just campaign against “US Imperialism, is the worst sort of amoral sophistry. A dishonest debating technique very familiar to those of us old enough to have debated with slippery Eurocommunists in the 1970’s on the issue of whether a gross dictatorship like the USSR could still be considered “Socialist”.

  20. David Ellis says:

    It is interesting to note how neo-Stalinism works out in relation to the Palestinian Question. Basically it supports the bogus peace process and two-state lie. It backs the wretched West Bank Bantustan or PA and the Ghetto Gangster Regime in Gaza and somehow tries to persuade us that these two entities are a nation. In short it is on the side of the very forces that had Zionism and Imperialism not intervened the Palestinian National Democratic Revolution would be directed against just as it backs Assad against the Syrian Revolution. Through this is collaborates just as Fatah and Hamas does with the Zionist state. Its policy ends up almost identical to the imperialist policy it purports to oppose. In Syria it backs Russian imperialism which is now in a de facto alliance with Western imperialism to bomb and dismember Syria.

    The true socialist approach to Palestine is to reject completely the bogus peace process and unconditionally side with the democratic revolution which seeks to unify Palestine (Israel, West Bank, Gaza) under a democratic secular regime in which Muslims, Jews, Christians and those of no faith can live in harmony and to which the refugees can return to new jobs and homes. That would represent the true defeat of Zionism and imperialism. In actual fact the position of the neo-Stalinists re the two state peace lie tells you why these champions of the Palestinians are absolutely unconcerned by Assad’s slaughter of Palestinian refugees in Syria. The Palestinian refugees do not fit into Fatah’s collaboration with the bogus Zionist plan and it is better if they are killed and dispersed and therefore no longer an obstacle to the stitch up they are planning.

    1. James Martin says:

      Wow David, you really should go to the Holy Land and tell everyone the error of their ways, it is the perfect time of year for holier-than-thou prophets after all.

      1. David Ellis says:

        That is anti-internationalism right there. But in actual fact you are giving advice to the Palestinians in your own not so subtle way. Just a pity it is Stalinist and Zionist advice. Any chance of you tackling the substance of my comment? No, thought not. Moron.

  21. Stephen Bell says:

    So, John Penney is unable to provide a single instance from STW of “lying” or “dishonest support” for Assad, Qhaddafi, Hussein etc.

    Instead we are attacked for not covering details of regimes’ war upon opposition. By this logic, we should also be condemned for not covering details of Daesh, Nusrah and al-Sham war crimes. These are as equally well attested as those of the regime.

    STW does not take sides in the war. We are campaigning not for one sides victory. We are campaigning against the British government making the situation worse by military action. This is the approach we have been taking since 2001. We think this accords to the principle of self-determination for the people of the region.

    It is more pleasant to build a mass movement against British imperialism than it is to write about it. This is what STW does, and what our “socialist” critics fail.

    1. John Penney says:

      A truly tragic response from you, Stephen Bell. Its political dishonesty is truly breathtaking. So selective direct intervention via close air support by the UK (or US) to support the secular forces of the Kurds in their life and death struggle against the fascists of Daesh “accords to the principle of self determination for the people’s of the region” does it ? As does the StWC’s complete ignoring of the barrel bombing of civilian areas by the Assad regime, and the indiscriminate bombing and use of white phosphorus bombs by the Russia’s air force ?

      Your cavalier disregard of the needs of those few progressive forces (the Kurds) fighting the various murderous oppressive forces in the region, to pursue your selective , and entirely bogus , posturing “only US/British/French Imperialism ” is the enemy , trope, has me reaching for the sick bag.

      1. John Penney says:

        Typo alert: My second line should of course have read “So a refusal to support selective direct intervention ….”

        And I’ve just noticed your ” StW does not take sides in the war”. FFS , Stephen, You really justify not taking sides as between a secular, non sectarian, women’s rights supporting, genuine national liberation movement, the Kurds, and a clerico-fascist barbaric death cult, acting as a proxy for Turkish and Saudi regional ambitions – Daesh ? What sort of amoral armchair theorist “socialist” are you again ?

        1. Stephen Bell says:

          Why are you outraged by a method that STW has been using since 2001? Our stance on Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria has been identical. To unite the broadest possible movement against the intervention by the British government, without supporting regime change, or a particular opposition.

          This is the basis on which we have organised countless initiatives, and hundreds of thousands of people have taken part in them. This is the real achievement of the campaign which we are proud to defend. This has not been done by “armchair theorists”, but by activists devoted to the struggle for an alternative foreign policy.

          “Political dishonesty” – yawn. You have not provided a single instance of STW spokespeople advocating our alleged “real” policy. That word doesn’t work for you.

        2. Jeff Lucas says:

          You criticise Stephen Bell for not “taking sides” or supporting air strikes for the Kurds. But isnt it the case that the Kurds alone cannot do the job of removing Assad. There are 57 varieties of highly fluid “opposition” groups out there, some of whom are fighting each other, nearly all of whom are theocratic and conservative. Where are the legions of nice guys that Peter Tatchell thinks are out there? What does it mean to ask whose side are you on in these circumstances? Do you want to lend your support to a grouping that may well replace a murderous secular regime with a genocidal theocratic one? I wish I was so sure as you that backing the “good guys” would produce a happy outcome.

      2. James Martin says:

        Am I right in thinking you supported the UK bombing of Libya in 2011? And support the UK bombing of Syria now?

      3. gerry says:

        John Penney – quite! Stop the War apologists, like this Stephen Bell, don’t get it – this site is called LEFT FUTURES: which us why most of us who like this site and post comments find his profoundly anti socialist organisation, with its jihadi/theocrat/Putinite/stalinist essence, truly repulsive. Pass the sick bag indeed.

        1. James Martin says:

          I’ve been a Labour Party member for 30-odd years Gerry, but I suspect quite a few of the examples of those on here who love to rant about Putin or Stalin and use it as an excuse to join in a witch hunt by the Henry Jackson right wing and media have been members for all of 5 minutes (if they are members at all) having learnt their very obvious obsessive sectarianism in the myriad of ‘socialist alternative’ grouplets outside the Party. And if I have learnt anything in those decades of membership it is that you never ever aid a witch hunt against others on the left even if you have disagreements with them, particularly this one that like the previous attacks on Andrew Fisher is actually directed at Jeremy Corbyn.

          1. gerry says:

            I don’t want to be personally nasty to you James – you are a fellow Labour party member and like me you have never been in another party. I think you are profoundly wrong to defend Stop the War on the grounds that it is getting trashed by the Daily Mail…Stop the War itself offers no loyalty or solidarity to socialists in the middle East, but instead allies with the murderous enemies of our fellow socialists overseas: jihadis, islamists like the Muslim Brotherhood (who as Phil notes through the horrific Muslim Association of Britain allied with Stop the War’s stalinist leaders from the very beginning).

            Put simply, James, one of our jobs as socialists is to fearlessly tell the truth: and the truth is that Stop the War is a poisonous enemy of socialism. To hell with all of them.

  22. David Ellis says:

    The Stalinists and neo-Stalinists who back Putin as a bulwark against Western imperialism are in a modern day version of the Stalin-Hitler pact with the European far right who see Putin as a hero in the struggle against Western liberalism. In fact that is being kind. Their support for Assad’s brutal slaughter of the Syrian people might actually put them directly in the camp of the fascists.

  23. Nick Wright says:

    Unlike much of this deranged discussion there is a reasoned and well informed investigation of present day imperialism.

    The Empire and Ukraine by Andrew Murray sets the Ukraine crisis in its global and local context, and draws the lessons needed for the anti-war movement as great power conflict returns to Europe and threatens a new cold war or worse. From his decade long vantage point in the leadership of the anti-war movement in the world s second most powerful imperialist military state Andrew Murray explores the essential links between the crises of contemporary capitalism and war. No political question is more important in contemporary Britain. It lies at the heart of controversies in public life and in the Labour movement and it is in this context that Andrew Murray s sharp polemics with those, on both right and left who seek to justify intervention have a particular relevance.

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