‘Stop The War’ rump backs Assad

May 31, 2013 at 12:51 am (apologists and collaborators, internationalism, islamism, Jim D, John Rees, Lindsey German, Middle East, stalinism, Syria)

By Mark Osborn (Solidarity paper and AWL website)

Above: Assad stooge and Stop The War favourite Issa Chaer on Press TV

The latest campaign by the Stop the War campaign, the remnant of the group which ten years ago organised big marches against the invasion of Iraq, is to prevent Western intervention in Syria.

An attempt at a major public meeting on the issue, held in London on 21 May, attracted only 50 people. This was a meeting organised by leftists (Counterfire and Socialist Action) to oppose Western intervention in Syria at which no platform speaker was willing to criticise the disgusting Syrian regime. They say: “our duty is to build a movement against Western intervention.” But, even if such an initiative made sense as an immediate priority, what makes combining opposition to intervention with championing freedom and democracy problematic?

Only that Counterfire has made a political choice not to criticise Assad’s filthy regime. Why? Because in this war Counterfire and Socialist Action are effectively siding with the regime.

Stop the War’s organisers are seriously politically disorientated. And that leaves them sharing platforms with a ridiculous Stalinist, Kamal Majid, and a Syrian academic, Issa Chaer, who when interviewed by the Iranian state’s propaganda outlet, Press TV, said, “I see President Assad as the person who is now uniting the country from all its backgrounds, all factions and all political backgrounds… anybody who calls for President Assad to step down at this stage; would be causing Syria an irreversible destruction.”

Majid’s reasons to oppose Western intervention in Syria are, from a genuinely left wing perspective, senseless.

He says: the US wants to overthrow the regime of Bashar Assad.  Don’t we all? Apparently not. Majid thinks this would be a bad thing.

The American dilemma is rational: they want Assad to go, and replaced by some sort of stability, but don’t know how to get it. They are worried that intervention might embroil them in an expensive, bloody war — like in Iraq or Afghanistan — and  end with Syria falling to pieces in sectarian slaughter. They are alarmed by the rising Islamists. So they try to negotiate a new government. But that too is problematic because Assad hangs on, and the Russians and Iranians continue to back Assad.

Majid says: the US and Europe want to intervene to grab Syrian oil and gas. Yes, the EU was the biggest customer for Syrian oil before the civil war and sanctions. But if the US and EU simply wanted Syrian oil they could use the normal capitalist mechanism of buying the stuff with cash. Assad would be delighted to hand over oil for dollars.

Another argument is: US wants to get rid of Hezbollah in Lebanon? Invading Syria would not remove Hezbollah, the reactionary, militarised, Shia party from Lebanon. If the US wanted to remove Hezbollah from Lebanon it would have to invade Lebanon, not Syria! However, Lebanon is one of quite a few countries on the US’s list of “places we do not intend to invade anytime soon”.

Of course Hezbollah’s recent turn towards very significant fighting for Assad in the town of Qusair is very alarming. This might be the point at which the civil war spills over the border. An anti-war campaign worthy of the name would oppose Hezbollah, not seek to protect them. Counterfire won’t do that because Hezbollah oppose the US and Israel and so are to be considered “on our side”.

The final argument is: US wants to remove Assad because it intends to invade Iran. The cartoon used by Stop the War shows Uncle Sam vaulting from Libya to Syria to Iran, bringing democracy. Whatever else is wrong with US policy it is not that it wants democracy in Libya, Syria and Iran. Stop the War presents itself as the group which opposes democracy.

There are foreign troops in Syria already — Iranian troops. A genuinely anti-imperialist movement would also oppose Russian policy and demand the withdrawal of Hezbollah’s fighters and Iranian troops from Syria. For STW it is quite a come-down from a million people on the streets against the Iraq war to a couple of dozen cranky Stalinists and fragments from the SWP in the basement of a London college. The reason is that the premise of the meeting — that the US is about to invade or bomb Syria, and that the main issue for us in Syria is stopping the West — is nonsense.

Indeed, if the US is eagerly looking to use its troops and planes, it has a funny way of going about it. It is now over two years since the uprising in Syria began and — despite plenty of regime outrages that could act as a justification, and pressure from some on the American right — Obama has shown no appetite for a major intervention. He has applied diplomatic pressure favouring the opposition, but has also prevented advanced weaponry getting to the Syrian rebels.

In April US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told the Senate Armed Services Committee, “Military intervention at this point could … embroil the US in a significant, lengthy and uncertain military commitment.”

US policy has shifted a little recently towards efforts to engage the regime and find a diplomatic process which can end the war. The US is working with the Russians to organise a peace conference in Geneva in June.

Western advocates for lifting the EU arms embargo on weapons for the Syrian opposition see their efforts as strengthening the opposition during negotiations, rather than helping the rebels overrun the state. The BBC comments, British Foreign Minister William Hague, “has argued that partially lifting the EU arms embargo… would complement, rather than work against, the peace process because it would strengthen the opposition’s hand in negotiations with President Assad.”

Unions should stop funding STW’s nasty little rump of a campaign


  1. Modernity's Ghost said,

    Russia are supplying new MiG fighters to Assad.


    No doubt, StWC will congratulate Putin for fueling the slaughter of civilians by the Syrian government?

    Then again, they probably haven’t got an opinion of Russia’s intervention in Syria, lest it upset their Stalinist allies.

    • Jim Denham said,

      I think, Mod, that they *do* in fact have an opinion on Russia’s intervention…they support it.

      If you follow the link in the main post above, to Lindsey German’s latest piece, you’ll see that she quotes Deputy Foreign Ministser Sergai Ryabkov as saying the Russian decision to supply a sophisticated new anti-aircraft missile system to Assad is to discourage “hotheads” from entering the conflict.

      German then goes on to write “No doubt British foreign minister William Hague was one of those “hotheads” he had in mind, but arms from any outside powers will only move us closer to a war that could engulf the whole region.”

      Despite the (no doubt deliberate) ambiguity, I interpret that as German agreeing with the Russians’ assessment and actions.

    • James Sampson said,

      More rotten shills spouting off in favor of another rotten war. The rebels are losing because they are more rotten than Assad. If you want to support sectarian slaughter, religious genocide, sunni cannibal warlord scum be my guest. The first people to be slaughtered will be the Alawites, Shiites, Druze, Christians and every other religious and political minority in Syria. The “rebels” backers are gulf monarchies–the most repressive states on the planet next to North Korea. The US has been arming the entire region for decades, those arms are now being transferred in via US military bases to destabilize a satellite state of a rival super-power.

      Western support for theocracy in this world is simply disgusting. Here’s a clue…ALL the governments in that region are dictatorships. Why is the Assad regime important in this case? Because the rulers of Britain, France, USA, Turkey and other powers can’t stand the idea of a government they don’t control. This war has nothing to do with the demands of people during the Arab Spring for democracy. This is religious reaction on the march. There is no revolution, give up pretending that your support for the rebels is somehow out of concern for the Syrian people.

      No war exists outside of its broader historical context. This war is a run-up to the next war. Real opposition to imperialism would insist on no support for either side of the conflict. Any other position in the face of imperialism is simply nationalist ruling ideas regurgitated so that liberals can make themselves feel good about their support for an imperialist war that they helped to start.

  2. Modernity's Ghost said,


    I suppose I was trying to point out that Trotskyists, even of the SWP variety, should be opposed to Putin.

    I was being charitable by assuming that their reluctance to criticise Russia was down to the fact that they were allied with Stalinists within the Stop the War Coalition, but I think you have a point.

    In the past, I had taken Trots protestations of their opposition to Stalinism at face value, whereas they do both subscribe to the ends-justify-means philosophy and presumably would align themselves with anyone.

    But it is a bit outlandish that SWPers/ex-SWPers see no anomaly in their decidedly ambiguous position towards Assad, and Russia’s role in fuelling of the slaughter.

    Self-awareness was never a strong point amongst SWPers/ex-SWPers!

    • Roger McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,

      Self-awareness was never a strong point amongst SWPers/ex-SWPers!


      Not even counting myself I can think of many ex-SWPers who are far from lacking in self-awareness – although admittedly that will have often been one of the qualities that drove them out.

      To give just two sadly departed comrades (both of whom died in circumstances suggesting suicide IIRC) consider Peter Sedgewick and David Widgery – respectively a psychologist and a GP (the latters book Some Lives! on serving a poor East End community being one of the best medical memoirs I know) neither of whom could be accused of that failing.

      Plus there is a whole battery of ex-SWP comedians (there must surely have been at least one episode of The News Quiz where the entire panel were ex-members or supporters of IS/SWP) – a trade generally which doesn’t favour the lacking in self-awareness.

      So you are letting your loathing of the SWP as it is now and admittedly has been for several decades blind you to the fact that tens of thousands of us have passed through that organisation – only some of whom have been complete idiots.

    • Roger McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,

      And a real Stalinist (and it’s probably not fair to tag the CPB as ‘Stalinist’ as the former CPGB elements of course mostly accept the verdict of the Twentieth Party Congress of the CPSU on the cult of personality….) would not necessarily support Putin who is a self-declared admirer of the reactionary Tsarist minister Stolypin and has done nothing whatsoever in power to turn the clock back to before 1990.

      In Russia itself the genuine admirers of Stalin are more likely to be part of whatever opposition is left (Limonov’s National Bolsheviks for instance) than supporters of Putin.

      So as usual all you are doing is looking for insults to throw at the left and not asking how they have backed themselves into these ludicrous positions.

    • Roger McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,

      Trotsky himself on ends and means:

      A means can be justified only by its end. But the end in its turn needs to be justified, From the Marxist point of view, which expresses the historical interests of the proletariat, the end is justified if it leads to increasing the power of man over nature and to the abolition of the power of man over man.

      “We are to understand then that in achieving this end anything is permissible?” sarcastically demands the Philistine, demonstrating that he understood nothing. That is permissible, we answer, which really leads to the liberation of mankind. Since this end can be achieved only through revolution, the liberating morality of the proletariat of necessity is endowed with a revolutionary character. It irreconcilably counteracts not only religious dogma but every kind of idealistic fetish, these philosophic gendarmes of the ruling class. It deduces a rule for conduct from the laws of the development of society, thus primarily from the class struggle, this law of all laws.

      “Just the same,” the moralist continues to insist, “does it mean that in the class struggle against capitalists all means are permissible: lying, frame-up, betrayal, murder, and so on?” Permissible and obligatory are those and only those means, we answer, which unite the revolutionary proletariat, fill their hearts with irreconcilable hostility to oppression, teach them contempt for official morality and its democratic echoers, imbue them with consciousness of their own historic mission, raise their courage and spirit of self-sacrifice in the struggle. Precisely from this it flows that not all means are permissible. When we say that the end justifies the means, then for us the conclusion follows that the great revolutionary end spurns those base means and ways which set one part of the working class against other parts, or attempt to make the masses happy without their participation; or lower the faith of the masses in themselves and their organization, replacing it by worship for the “leaders”. Primarily and irreconcilably, revolutionary morality rejects servility in relation to the bourgeoisie and haughtiness in relation to the toilers, that is, those characteristics in which petty bourgeois pedants and moralists are thoroughly steeped.

      These criteria do not, of course, give a ready answer to the question as to what is permissible and what is not permissible in each separate case. There can be no such automatic answers. Problems of revolutionary morality are fused with the problems of revolutionary strategy and tactics. The living experience of the movement under the clarification of theory provides the correct answer to these problems.

      Dialectic materialism does not know dualism between means and end. The end flows naturally from the historical movement. Organically the means are subordinated to the end. The immediate end becomes the means for a further end. In his play, Franz von Sickingen, Ferdinand Lassalle puts the following words into the mouth of one of the heroes:

      … “Show not the goal
      But show also the path. So closely interwoven
      Are path and goal that each with other
      Ever changes, and other paths forthwith
      Another goal set up.”

      Lassalle’s lines are not at all perfect. Still worse is the fact that in practical politics Lassalle himself diverged from the above expressed precept – it is sufficient to recall that he went as far as secret agreements with Bismark! But the dialectic interdependence between means and end is expressed entirely correctly in the above-quoted sentences. Seeds of wheat must be sown in order to yield an ear of wheat.


  3. paul fauvet said,

    I note that the Socialist Unity blog has just carried a piece denouncing Britain’s “blood soaked” role in Syria. Strangely enough, the article did not use a similar adjective to describe the Russian role. I pointed out this double standard in a comment which is currently “awaiting moderation”. It will be interesting to see whether it is printed.

  4. Bonnie Newman said,

    I’m glad to come across this blog post. I have been despairing about the popular thoughts of the left regarding Syria.

    I wrote this letter to the Weekly Worker last week:

    “I’ve been researching the Syria situation since spring 2012, and have been unconvinced by the presentation of the situation from mainstream, corporate media, as well as the obscene responses from sections of the left: horrific incidents were being ignored and apologised for by the majority of the organisations that claim to be left of centre.

    I’ve been meaning to write a letter for a number of weeks, to show appreciation for the coverage of the Weekly Worker in comparison to the leftwing newspapers that have adopted pro-Assad regime positions. Yassamine Mather’s and Moshé Machover’s discussion regarding Israel’s role in the Syria situation (‘Netanyahu attempts to provoke new confrontation’, May 9) and Peter Manson’s article regarding red lines, chemical weapons and the US role in Syria (‘Toxic weapons and revolutionary illusions’, May 2) were of interest to me, since they encouraged a discussion of the situation, rather than demanding a position that supports either the ‘rebels’ or the regime.

    When I was in Lebanon recently, I went to Bekaa Valley, near the Syria border, and spoke with refugees and local people desperately affected by the crisis in Syria. There are thousands living under sheets, not receiving the aid you might expect, and children are being left to just deal with it. Four million people are reported to be displaced; hundreds of thousands of people are dead or missing. Refugees are in absolute crisis, since they are facing closed borders. When they get to a refugee camp, there is hardly any aid there for them. Many people still live in places like Aleppo, and continue to try and get on with their lives, amid the destruction and constant shelling, because they cannot go anywhere.

    The majority of the British left is more concerned about being perceived as ‘pro-imperialist’ if it shows any solidarity with the revolution or any opposition to the oppressive and murderous Assad dictatorship. Groups such as the Stop the War Coalition show little concern for the Syrian people, and appear to suggest that Assad should remain in power.

    On May 31 there will be an event in solidarity with the Syrian revolution at the University of London Union. It will host a live video-link with activists from Syria and the film, Battle of Aleppo, will also be shown. It is a controversial choice, since it was made by Pierre Piccinin da Prata, who has been quoted making sympathetic comments in relation to a Nato intervention. However, there’s no doubt that the film will be worth watching – it does attempt to draw public attention to the anguish of the Syrian people, while an indifferent world looks on.”

    The event held in solidarity with the Syrian people was very moving and upsetting, since the scenes we watched were battles waged between the regime and opposition forces, and the human suffering that has resulted from the two years of conflict.


    I am not a religious person, so I can only hope that people will research further that Stop the War articles, and use their reason to challenge their own perception of Syria, and it will be revealed that this is a different situation to Iraq and Libya.

    • Jimmy Glesga said,

      So should the West and NATO intervene? The British from the onset have been supplying weapons via Saudi Arabia the Arms Bazaar no doubt making a fortune.
      The Brits are drip feeding the Sunni insurgency in Syria. There will be no democracy in Syria whatever the outcome.

  5. Anna said,

    It clear that the person who wrote this article did not attend this stop the war event and did not hear the speakers including the one he has implicated in this article speak against violence and against arming any side in the Syrian conflict.

    It seems Mark Osborn is using material out of context to promote his personal views.!

    As someone who attended the meeting and just seen this article, I am disgusted by the wrong casting of the speakers by Mark Osborn and would like to highlight that what is said in this article is does not reflect what was said in the meeting and only reflected a one side views of the author.

    This is the link to what was said during the meeting.
    It is clear the author has twisted the facts in this article.


  6. Raf said,

    Anna! You are right, I have read this article and followed all the links and as someone who attended this particular STWC event, I am surprised by the twists and spins presented by Mark Osborn. I think Mark should withdraw this article as it seem to be defamation of characters and not a political argument.

    As stated above, I attended the event and as I recall what was presented at the meeting is inline with what is stated in the London Communist article. http://londoncommunists.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/syria-stop-western-intervention.html
    I clearly recall Dr Chaer promoting peace through out his talk and saying “Arming any side in the conflict is the wrong strategy”. We even talked about it after the meeting and talked about the high number of academics and engineers that have been lost during the Syrian crises. Something which he also talked about in his presentation. I think, you owe the man an apology for twisting his words.
    Ps. have you terminated your links with the Muslim Brothers that attended the meeting with you.

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