‘Stop the War’ subjected to scrutiny and challenge from the left: they don’t like it

December 27, 2015 at 6:03 pm (apologists and collaborators, genocide, Human rights, Libya, Middle East, posted by JD, reactionay "anti-imperialism", Russia, stalinism, Stop The War, Syria, Ukraine)

stopthewarA quite intense and heated debate has been taking place over at Left Futures, concerning the political basis of the Stop the War Coalition, and the motives of those who criticise it from the left. As far as I’m aware, this is the first time that the StWC has been subjected to sustained criticism from the left – and they do not like it, or come of it well, having tried and failed with their usual line that all criticism is a matter of right-wing conspiracies/”smears”/ and “quotations from articles taken out of context”, etc, etc.

The relevant articles and btl comments at Left Futures can be found here, here and (most recently) here. I would urge anyone interested in the question of western intervention and “imperialism” to take the trouble to read all three articles, and the btl debates that have followed, the most recent of which is still continuing.

I have been particularly impressed by the btl contributions of one John Penney: I do not know Comrade Penney and do not have his permission to republish his most recent contribution (below) in response to a StW apologist (“James”) who’d tried to defend StW’s unprincipled alliances with supporters of Assad, Gaddafi, Milosevic, Putin and other totalitarians, dictators and genociders by claiming StW “is not an international group, it is a single issue national organisation against UK military action, end of.”


The cynicism and sophistry of Stop the War and its apologists

By John Penney

This is the purest, cynical, sophistry, James, as I’m sure you are very well aware. (though I may be wrong – you could just be a naïve dupe). CND can indeed be a “single issue campaign” , and not be implicated in turning a blind eye to mass murder .

Unfortunately in the complex multi-sided cauldron of the Middle East it is not morally or politically possible to blithely claim that StWC is “only concerned with opposing UK military action” , and claim that this leaves it’s organisational hands clean of the consequences of this cod pacifist position. The Kurds in particular, but also sundry other minorities facing enslavement and mass murder by the Daesh barbarians (and proxies of Turkish and Saudi regional imperialism) do require arms and close air support to fight off the better armed , death-loving fanatics of Daesh. It is purely a tactical issue as to where the Kurds and others get this military support. Simply having a blanket “no to any UK involvement” position is actually directly campaigning to leave the Kurds and other minorities to be slaughtered by Daesh. That is the direct consequence of the current unconditional StW campaigning demand.

Of course we’ve been here repeatedly before – in the case of sections of the Left blindly campaigning to stop NATO intervening in both Bosnia and Kosovo – to end the huge scale genocide being perpetrated by the ( supposedly “socialist” ?) Serbian regime. Again sections of the Left, 25 years ago, campaigned against the setting up, of a No Fly Zone in Northern Iraq to protect the Kurds from the then murderous campaign being waged by Saddam Hussein. In all three cases NATO intervention simply did quite evidently save hundreds of thousands of lives. Simply opposing all Western intervention as a matter of unconditional principle is schoolboy-level political posturing. This doesn’t for a moment alter the fact that NATO is the military arm of Western Imperialism – of course it is. However the Left needs to be more tactically flexible, and willing to prioritise and balance the real needs of masses of people in real peril, against the holding of inflexible political postures. For someone obviously as lost in the political maze of Stalinist political models as you evidently are , James, a concept which I don’t expect you are even able to imagine.

But then you probably actually know this quite well and are simply playing semantic games – to cover up your, and StWC’s leadership’s actual , undeclared, underlying, support for the Assad regime and its Russian imperialist backers. That is certainly the CPB member , and now new Chairman of StWC’s [Andrew Murray – JD] obvious personal political position.

Your blanket “opposition to NATO” is simply another cover for the ludicrously simplistic soviet-era politics which views ONLY US/Western imperialism as a barrier to socialist progress – with a range of bestial tyrannies like Iran, Assad’s Syria, Saddam’s Iraq, and Gaddafi’s Libya getting a “free pass” as members of some bogus “axis of Resistance”.

Your cynical sophistry is truly stomach churning. StW today is a cynically manipulative movement, playing on naïve general pacifist anti war sentiments , to promote the narrow sectarian interests of a StW leadership coalition of Islamic fundamentalist appeasers and supporters of the Assad regime and Russian imperialism – not by any means a “single issue campaign”.

There are plenty of good reasons to oppose the current , purely symbolic, tiny air intervention of the UK in Syria. Its total ineffectiveness and total failure to recognise and tackle the vital huge support for Daesh coming from Turkey and Saudi Arabia, for one. But to object purely on a cod pacifist basis – and ignoring the murderous role of Assad and the Russians, is to be a stooge of these regimes – not proud evidence of being a clean hands “single issue” campaign.


  1. februarycallendar said,

    Pretty revealingly honest how blatant and open “James” is about his and StW’s lack of internationalism. Still quite rare for them to be so open.

  2. Howard Fuller said,

    Thanks for this. Read some of the latest stuff with interest. I thought Phil BC’s article on the StWC was an excellent expose of their bankrupt politics.

    The reply by StWC hacks contained one of the most unintentionally hysterically laughable response I have ever seen:

    “The article’s title alone demonstrates a lack of basic respect for our activity”

    Well I for one have no respect for these totalitarian Islamo-fascist cheerleaders. The StWC disgusts me with their disingenuous posturing.

  3. Glasgow Working Class said,

    The Stop the War joke must end sometime surely. An honerable disbandment maybe handing out leaflets at tube stations and outside the Russian and Iranian Embassies. You could maybe include the SNP HQ and others.

  4. Steven Johnston said,

    Great article here on Andrew Murry and StWC


    Proving that if you give ’em enough rope…

    Love how Murray comes across as not much of an internationalist, strange that the arguments he uses against foreign intervention in Syria he does not apply to the Spanish Civil war or WWII

  5. John R said,

    Well, there might be a robust debate on “Left Futures” but my humble contribution was put “under moderation” and, subsequently, did not appear. As to why, I cannot imagine, as all I did was quote (and reference) the views of various Stoppers, including Andy Newman, the author of the article to back up my argument.

    I think it was James Bloodworth who said that the “new McCarthyism” was quoting back to people what they were on record as saying. Maybe, that’s what the problem was.

    Anyway, a Happy New Year to all here and here is what I wrote –

    I think to clear up what STWC stands for and who should be involved, they should state quite clearly they and their supporters stand for the defeat of British and American imperialism. As to who is fighting Western Imperialism, well, one can’t be “choosy”, can one? The main point, in their view, is that Western Imperialism is defeated and if that comes at the hands of Isis and the mass slaughter of, for example, the Kurds, well, the West can ultimately be blamed for that as well.
 The leaders of STWC state their objectives on the websites of their organisations (see below) and they would not be involved with STWC if it did not further their aims.
 The following quotes make this clear.

    1. John Rees who would have welcomed Saddam’s victory.

    2. The Morning Star (CPB) supporting Assad and Putin against “terrorists” (all opposed to Assad).

    3. Andy Newman supporting Iraqi and Afghani “military action against the British armed forces, both in the UK and overseas”

    PS. I agree with John Penney’s view.

(1.) “Socialists want the defeat of imperialism and the victory of the Iraqi working class. We oppose our own imperialist governments, hoping for their defeat. If defeat had come at Saddam’s hands we would still have welcomed it. But we hoped for it at the hands of Iraqi workers who could have both crushed Saddam and proved far better opponents of imperialism.”

    – John Rees (Counterfire and Stop the War)

(2.) “Russia has deployed aerial firepower in Syria, but only in support of Syrian army ground operations, backed by its Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah allies, and these troops have scored substantial victories recently, driving back terrorist forces.

    Were the Nato allies ready to co-operate with Moscow and regional forces at the sharp end of countering Isis, the days of the death cult could be numbered.”

    -Morning Star

(3.) “Now let us make something absolutely clear. I think that given Britain is at war, then those fighting for the national independence of Iraq and Afghanistan would be entirely justified in sabotage against these bases, or other military action against the British armed forces, both in the UK and overseas.

    What is more, the military defeat of the US and UK is the better outcome in Iraq and Afghanistan, and although I regret the tragic loss of life for our service men and women, I believe that the Iraqi insurgents fighting them are justified in fighting for their national independence.”



  6. John R said,

    Btw, a couple of interesting articles from the “Carnegie Endownment” on the de-facto alliance between the PKK and the Americans below. The first from Dec 2 and the other from Dec 28.

    “The PKK, operating in Syria through a front group known as the People’s Defense Units, or YPG (with an all-female version called the YPJ), has emerged as the country’s most potent anti-jihadi force. Having crushed the Islamic State in Kobane in February, Tal Abyad in June, Hasakah City in July, and now in al-Houl on the Iraqi border, the Kurds and their local allies are gearing up for further offensives on jihadi strongholds near Raqqa and south of Hasakah. The White House desperately wants to support them, seeing few other ways to pressure the Islamic State in Syria.”


    “It seems impossible already, and that’s before we take a major political obstacle into account: the Kurds’ key ally, the United States, has promised Turkey to refrain from backing any Kurdish offensives west of the Euphrates. That’s because the driving force behind the SDF is the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which has its origins among Kurds in Turkey and is still fighting the government in Ankara. Instead, the Americans are most likely coaxing the SDF to keep going south into Arab territory near Raqqa in order to force the Islamic State to pull troops home from the Aleppo front.”


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