What’s behind Stop the War’s aversion to Syrian voices?

October 19, 2016 at 4:15 pm (apologists and collaborators, internationalism, Libya, Middle East, posted by JD, reactionay "anti-imperialism", Stop The War, Syria)

From The New Arab:

What's behind Stop the War's aversion to Syria voices?

Above: a Stop The War Coalition protest outside Downing Street, 12 Dec 2015 [Getty}

By Joey Ayoub

Date of publication: 17 October, 2016

Comment: The problem with the Stop the War coalition, is that it is fundamentally not anti-war, but simply anti-western intervention, writes Joey Ayoub.

On 15 November 2015, Diane Abbott went on the BBC’s ‘Daily Politics’ show to defend herself and the Stop the War (StW) coalition against a rather odd accusation: that they refuse to give a platform to Syrians when discussing Syria.

It followed a heated exchange just days prior, in which Syrian activists challenged StW’s leadership on the matter during a talk on Syria. They were backed by Peter Tatchell, the veteran anti-war activist who had also been criticising StW for what many perceive as its intolerance towards left-wing, democratic and anti-Assad Syrian activists.

This was not a new accusation. StW has prevented Syrian activists from speaking at their rallies or from taking part in any “anti-war” campaign, while giving a platform to pro-Assad apologists and inviting Assad’s own allies like the Ghouta massacre-denier Fadia Laham, also known as “Mother Agnes”, for years.

This exposes two fundamental aspects of StW today: A de facto tolerance and acceptance of Assad’s tyranny translated as the problem of people “over there” which “we” must not get involved in, regardless of the repercussions, and a hatred for subaltern voices, in this case Syrians, who do not fit the accepted narrative.

This, in turn, works hand in hand with an outdated cold war-era framework, still plaguing much of the western and Arab Left, which romanticises (read: whitewashes) the Kremlin’s politics.

Nineham forgot to ask a single Libyan about the effects of the no-fly zone in Libya

Fastforward to October 2016. Chris Nineham, the Vice Chair of StW, writes an article entitled “Don’t Believe the Start the War Coalition – Ask Libyans About No-Fly Zones” (NFZ). On reading that article, filled with oversimplifications and vague warnings, one notices something fairly obvious: In an article asking “us” to ask Libyans, Nineham forgot to ask a single Libyan about the effects of the NFZ in Libya.

Indeed, the only six mentioned in that article are Andrew Mitchell, Boris Johnson, Hilary Clinton, Joseph Dunford, Emily Thornberry and Jeremy Corbyn (who was also recently heckled by a pro-Syrian activist). Had StW followed their own advice and asked Libyans about the NFZ, they might have found inconvenient answers which challenge their de facto isolationist politics.

Indeed, the NFZ was seen as the lesser of many evils by countless Libyans who rose up against Gaddafi. A 2012 Gallup poll interviewing approximately 1,000 Libyans showed that 77 percent “broadly support several forms of potential assistance from the West, particularly military support”.

The idea of a NFZ seems far more contested among a group of privileged leftists who do not live under a tyranny, than among Libyans themselves

One Libyan activist, Rema Abdulaziz, even recently wrote in The Independent that she and many more are actually grateful for the NFZ. In other words, the idea of a NFZ seems far more contested among a group of privileged leftists who do not live under a tyranny, than among Libyans themselves.

Furthermore, what is often ignored about the NFZ in Libya is that not a single member state of the Security Council, including Russia, opposed it and that it was another Arab country, Lebanon, which officially proposed the NFZ to the Security Council.

To the isolationists, “they” needn’t be asked what they think of their country’s situation, for “we”, as owners of great social capital, know best. To borrow from Bell Hooks, Libyans, like Syrians today, were and are told that “there is no need to hear your voice, when ‘we’ can talk about you better than you can speak about yourself.

No need to hear your voice. Only tell me about your pain. I want to know your story. And then I will tell it back to you in a new way. Tell it back to you in such a way that it has become mine, my own. Re-writing you, I write myself anew. I am still author, authority. I am still [the] colonizer, the speaking subject, and you are now at the center of my talk.”

This is no mere detail in this story. In fact, it is the central one: If, as leftists, we wish to support revolutionary emancipation regardless of man-made borders, we must make sure we are being useful allies, not useful idiots.

The problem with StW is that it is fundamentally not anti-war, but simply anti-Western intervention regardless of the realities on the ground. This is why it is an isolationist movement, a deeply conservative one at that, and one which has dangerous repercussions in an age of increasing xenophobic nativist rhetoric.

‘They’ needn’t be asked what they think of their country’s situation, for ‘we’, as owners of great social capital, know best

As StW proudly wrote on their own website, they are accused “of having a doctrinaire rejection of western intervention in the Middle East” which, they add, “is correct – our doctrine has been fully vindicated by the consequences of such interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.”

Perhaps the StW is led by people who are not aware of the definition of doctrinaire, namely “one who attempts to put into effect an abstract doctrine or theory with little or no regard for practical difficulties”.

The ‘abstract doctrine’ is anti-western imperialism (not anti-imperialism in itself) and anti-western intervention, of any kind. As for the ‘practical difficulties’, they are nothing less than the aspiration of Syrians who took to the streets in 2011 demanding justice, those same Syrians who were, and are, tortured in their tens of thousands in Assad’s gulags and slaughtered in their hundreds of thousands.

We must make sure we are being useful allies, not useful idiots

As we’ve seen over the past few years, the slogan “Assad or we burn the country” of the Assad regime and its state-sponsored militias known as the Shabiha, is meant literally.

The fact that StW always refers to Iraq in particular as ‘proof’ speaks volumes, given the fact that there was no revolution in Iraq nor is there a western invasion and occupation in Syria remotely comparable to the 2003 US-led invasion and occupation.

To quote the Lebanese Marxist intellectual Gilbert Achcar, commenting on Corbyn being heckled, this reactionary isolationism represents “a national-selfish attitude that doesn’t care about what happens to the rest of the world as long as ‘we’ are not directly concerned and our well-being is not affected – or (the leftwing version) as long as our ‘anti-imperialist’ conscience is not troubled by any of the complexities of the real world.

They’d rather see Benghazi or Aleppo razed to the ground and their inhabitants massacred, than see the UK or any Western government attempt to do something about it, let alone call on them to do something, even when there are no other forces capable of preventing the massacre.

In that balance, one Libyan or Syrian killed by ‘our’ government is more unbearable to our conscience than ten thousand killed by the local despots: this may be a form of ‘anti-imperialism’, but it is as far away from ‘internationalism’ (a leftwing value that seems to have completely vanished) as isolationism is.”

By ignoring a fundamental principle, that “critiquing our own governments and their crimes is a necessary but not sufficient part of the fight for justice”, we end up giving ammunition to a xenophobic rhetoric that is already gaining momentum.

This has been repeated so many times since the beginning of the Arab Spring that no honest observer can claim ignorance. Cynical indifference, however, is always available, and those who wish to adopt it should express no surprise at the continuing rise of nativism and xenophobia within Fortress Europe’s borders and beyond.

Joey Ayoub is the MENA editor at Global Voices as well as a Lebanese researcher from Beirut currently living in London. He is the founder of Hummus For Thought and mostly writes on Syria, Israel-Palestine and Lebanon.

Follow him on Twitter: @joeyayoub

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.

See also: Tendance Coatesy

Permalink 3 Comments

Assange backs Putin and Trump

October 17, 2016 at 11:32 pm (apologists and collaborators, Asshole, misogyny, posted by JD, Putin, reactionay "anti-imperialism", Russia, sexism)

By Mike Harris (at The Independent):

As he faces questioning in London, the liberal left must accept the significant role the WikiLeaks founder is playing in Trump’s presidential campaign

  • julian-assange.jpg

Donald Trump is the greatest threat to Western civilisation we have faced since the fall of the Berlin Wall. If elected, he threatens to jail his opponent, Hillary Clinton. He is emboldening the cranks and racists of the alt-right and destabilising the American people’s faith in their democratic institutions with his loose talk that the system is “rigged”. And, even though Trump represents a virulent strain of hard-right populism, he is being helped along by a hero of the libertarian left – Julian Assange.

Assange’s alliance with Donald Trump looks, on the face of it, like one of the most unusual political alliances in recent history. The players in this dangerous alliance may share a fondness for the conservative patriarchy of Vladimir Putin’s Russia but, for Assange, Trump is part of his calculations to escape his room in the Ecuadorian Embassy in Knightsbridge. A presidential pardon may stop him facing jail in the US (though no charges have been brought against him there so far), but it won’t stop his extradition to Sweden to face sexual assault allegations.

Assange’s political influence only remains because too many on the left have made half a decade’s worth of excuses for him.

For a brief moment, Julian Assange looked like the future. The hacker-turned-activist had the vision to co-found WikiLeaks and turn it into the world’s number one whistleblowing platform. He was hailed as the spirit incarnate of the internet; a man willing to face prison to let people know the truth about corruption in their governments and corporations. It is easy to forget how influential WikiLeaks once was.

The organisation had an inner circle of highly skilled data analysts and journalists working across the globe on leaked documents. When WikiLeaks published US embassy cables on President Ben Ali’s pilfering of state assets for shopping trips in Paris, it helped trigger the uprising in Tunisia.

Assange inspired an era of whistleblowing, from Edward Snowden exposing illegal US and UK surveillance, to the Panama Papers that showed the extent of global tax avoidance. Assange was powerful, seemingly above the law, and attracting international attention. A minority of journalists dared ask the question: who can hold the whistleblowers to account?

On 20 August 2010, two women entered a Stockholm police station and asked police to ensure Assange took an HIV test. The women allege that Assange had committed rape and sexual assault, charges Assange denies. He was due to be interviewed by police on 14 October 2010, but instead fled Sweden for London in late September.

People around Assange began to trash the reputations of the two women involved saying they were motivated by “malice and money”. Others said the allegations were part of a sinister CIA plot to destroy WikiLeaks. Few of Assange’s celebrity friends were willing to ask the question, what if Assange had committed sexual assault.

The law in Sweden means the charge of sexual assault has already expired and the rape charge will expire in 2020. He is now due to be questioned again by Swedish prosecutors inside the Ecudorian Embassy.

By now, you may have expected a chorus of voices from the liberal-left calling for Assange to return to Sweden to face questioning. If he was innocent, why could he not be questioned on these serious charges? Instead, people made excuses.

The excuses continued when months later, Padraig Reidy and I exposed damning evidence that suggested a close associate of Assange had given top secret US embassy cables to the dictator of Belarus, which may have landed brave democracy activists in prison. At first, we heard nothing. It took a former WikiLeaks staffer, James Ball, to blow the whistle for us to be taken seriously: ironically, now leaks were exposing an apparent cover-up culture at WikiLeaks.

It is because prominent people have made personal and professional excuses for Assange that he feels beyond reproach – even as he alienates those closest to him. Emboldened, Assange is going for his greatest ever prize: the US presidency.

WikiLeaks is leading the attack on Trump’s rival, Hillary Clinton, with leaks that have so far cost the job of Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, the former Democrat party chair. Just last Thursday, another 2,000 internal emails from the Clinton campaign were released. And moments after the infamous video of Trump allegedly boasting about groping women was put online, Wikileaks responded with leaked emails of Hillary Clinton’s speeches to Wall Street banks.

Robert Mackey of The Intercept, a site that has done much to give whistleblowers a global voice, says WikiLeaks has “started to look more like the stream of an opposition research firm working mainly to undermine Hillary Clinton than the updates of a non-partisan platform for whistleblowers.”

It seems odd that the world’s most prominent whistleblowing website has leaked nothing on Donald Trump and his mysterious tax records, yet is leaking the personal details of Democrat party donors. It seems highly likely that Wikileaks received these leaked emails from hackers working for the Russian Government.

With ammunition from Wikileaks, Trump is hammering home his case that the first female nominee from a major party for the presidency is unfit for office. Trump has lavished WikiLeaks with praise, telling a rally in Pennsylvania, “I love Wikileaks”.

It is claimed that support for Wikileaks is rising among US right-wingers. FoxNews TV shock jock Sean Hannity went as far telling Assange in a live interview, “I do hope you get free one day.” This is perhaps Assange’s strategy – damage Clinton (who ran the State Department when Assange leaked the embassy cables) to secure a Trump win and a presidential pardon.

I’ve written at length about Obama’s war on whistleblowers and the appalling record of the Democrat party in prosecuting brave Americans who speak out about their government’s human rights abuses. I would support any campaign to prevent Julian Assange’s extradition to the US, where the law would prevent him from running a public interest defence for his disclosures and would likely see him placed in jail alongside Chelsea Manning, who has suffered disgracefully at the hands of the US government.

If Donald Trump becomes US President, it will be in no small way thanks to the efforts of Julian Assange. After they’ve defended Assange against allegations of rape and helping the dictator of Belarus, will the liberal left continue to defend him if he gets Trump elected?

Mike Harris is the founder and director of 89up and the publisher of Little Atoms magazine

Permalink 5 Comments

Nineham’s wretched pro-Putin apologism should mark the end of Stop The War

October 12, 2016 at 3:05 pm (apologists and collaborators, ex-SWP, Human rights, Jim D, Middle East, protest, Putin, reactionay "anti-imperialism", Russia, Syria, war)

Chris Nineham: wretched Putin-appeaser

These things really happened, that is the thing to keep one’s eye on. They happened even though Lord Halifax said they happened. The raping and butchering in Chinese cities, the tortures in the cellars of the Gestapo, the elderly Jewish professors flung into cesspools, the machine-gunning of refugees along the Spanish roads — they all happened, and they did not happen any the less because the Daily Telegraph has suddenly found out about them when it is five years too late  – George Orwell, Looking Back At the Spanish War, 1943.

In a car crash of an interview on Radio 4’s Today programme, Chris Nineham, deputy chair of the Stop The War Coalition, was questioned about Boris Johnson’s call for people to protest Russia’s involvement in the war by demonstrating outside the country’s embassy in London. Nineham concluded by stating that the STWC’s guiding principle is to “oppose the West.”

The Foreign Secretary’s comments came after Labour’s Ann Clwyd urged those who care about the plight of Syrian civilians to gather outside Russian embassies across the globe until the country stops its bombing campaign.

Johnson also called for a war crimes investigation into the bombing of an aid convoy last month in which at least 21 people died.

Today host, Sarah Montague, began the segment on Wednesday morning by asking what the Stop the War Coalition was doing to oppose the conflict.

Nineham said: “We are we’re protesting with statements and our information that we’ve put out. We’ve condemned not just Russia but all foreign interventions into what is now an absolutely disastrous and horrible situation for the Syrian people.

“But we were set up as a coalition as a response to 9/11 and in response to the Western, British-supported drive to war back in 2001 and that is our focus.

“There’s a good reason for that…”

Montague interrupted, pointing out “we are in 2016 now” with a conflict raging in which “Aleppo is being destroyed”.

She added: “You have a Labour MP, Ann Clwyd, saying ‘where’s the rage, we should have two million, three million, four million people outside the Russian embassy…’

“Should people demonstrate outside the Russian embassy?”

Nineham replied: “This is not a serious argument being put [forward] by Boris Johnson, he’s characteristically trivialising the situation. If they want to protest outside the Russian embassy, they know where it is.”

When asked if Stop the War would get involved in such demonstrations, Nineham replied: “No we wouldn’t and the reason for that is that our focus is on what our government is doing.

“As I was saying, there’s a very good reason for this because we can make a difference to what Britain does, we can make a difference to what our allies do to a certain extent and we have done.

“But if we have a protest outside the Russian embassy it wouldn’t make a blind bit of difference to what Putin does because we are in the West and we are in Britain.

 “And not only that but a protest outside the Russian embassy would actually contribute to increasing the hysteria and the jingoism that is being whipped up at the minute to go against Russia… being organised by politicians and by the media against Russia to see Russia as the only problem in Syria.”

Montague said: “So you would urge people not to demonstrate against Russia?”

Nineham replied: “We’re not worried about it but what we’re saying is that there’s a hysteria that’s being organised by politicians and by the media against Russia to see Russia as the only problem in Syria.

“Syria is a multi-faceted war that involves Saudi Arabia, it involves the US and Britain who have been bombing the country as well.

“The real problem here is you have people who regard themselves as responsible politicians like Andrew Mitchell and John Woodcock and Boris Johnson to a lesser extent who are seriously saying that what Syria needs is more Western bombs, more Western munitions.

“And Andrew Mitchell actually came on this programme yesterday and seriously said it wouldn’t be a problem if RAF fighter pilots attacked Russian planes.”

Nineham went on: “The possibility now presents itself of there being a confrontation for the first time since the Second World War, between Russia and Western powers including Britain.

“And anyone who has a responsibility for peace or the future of the planet quite frankly needs to mobilise against that…”

At this point Montague cut off the interview but Nineham managed to get in a last few words.

“… and that means opposing the West.”

The Stop The War Coalition has now confirmed what many of us have been saying for a long while: the remnant of the group which ten years ago organised big marches against the invasion of Iraq, is now merely a “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” lash-up with Putin, Assad and any reactionary force or regime that happens to find itself in conflict with the West.

The STWC has made a conscious decision not to criticise Assad’s filthy regime. Why? Because in this war Counterfire and Socialist Action (the main political forces within the STWC)  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.”

In theory, the STWC opposes Russian bombing. But, in reality they don’t: after all, Stop The War’s Chair supports the Assad regime and Russian imperialism in Syria.

It’s time for the serious left – including Jeremy Corbyn and Unite – to withdraw support from this nasty, reactionary bunch of apologists and appeasers.

NB: the quotes used in this piece come from the Huffington Post

Permalink 3 Comments

Mary Poppins and pro-Nazi MacDairmid: the Scot Nat connection!

October 1, 2016 at 2:17 pm (apologists and collaborators, Beyond parody, fascism, literature, posted by JD, reactionay "anti-imperialism", scotland, SNP, stalinism, war)

From Dale Street:

Just a quick reminder about the quality of Scottish-nationalist politics and journalism.

The front cover of The National: It’s becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish between the spoofs and the real thing.

I assume the connection is: Mary Poppins wanted to fly above London with a brolly; Hugh McDiarmid wanted to fly above London with the Luftwaffe:

“Now when London is threatened
With devastation from the air
I realise, horror atrophying me,
That I hardly care.

“The leprous swine in London town
And their Anglo-Scots accomplices
Are, as they have always been
Scotland’s only enemies.”

(On The Imminent Destruction Of London, June 1940)

Permalink 2 Comments

Counterfart’s café closes: ha-ha-ha

September 17, 2016 at 6:50 pm (Andrew Coates, apologists and collaborators, ex-SWP, gloating, John Rees, Lindsey German, middle class, Pabs, posted by JD, wankers)

This may have happened some time ago, but I’ve only just heard: ha-ha-ha:

This failed:

… but we hear they are opening this:

H/t: comrade Coatesy

Permalink 1 Comment

Russian Greens condemn US candidate Jill Stein

September 7, 2016 at 7:16 pm (apologists and collaborators, Civil liberties, democracy, elections, Free Speech, Green Party, Human rights, posted by JD, Putin, Russia, thuggery, United States)

Jill Stein is the Green Party candidate for US president, and has the support of some American leftists, but her apologies for Putin has angered Greens in Russia, who’ve sent her this Open Letter:


Yesterday at 9:34am ·

Open letter to Dr. Jill Stein, Green Party candidate for President of the United States in the 2016 election

Dear Dr. Stein,

We are writing to you in the spirit of green values and principles, which include fighting for a sustainable future, defending the environment and human rights, and engaging in international solidarity. We are also writing to you as eco-activists, women and mothers.

In November of this year, you will face an important challenge which will have an impact all over the world, even far away from US borders. As Russian eco-activists, we are following the US presidential election with curiosity and fear. Curiosity for your democratic system and fear for the impact that the result of this election could have on our lives and the lives of our children.

As environmentalists and human rights defenders, we often support Green candidates all over the world when they run for local, national or continental election. However, we are asking ourselves if we can support your candidature for the Presidency of the United States of America. We have carefully read your program and your website and we have to admit that we are deeply shocked by the position you expressed during your visit to Moscow and your meeting with Mr. Vladimir Putin.

During the last few years, Russian authorities have continued the destruction of the rich and unique Russian environment. The Kremlin is heavily contributing to global climate change and the destruction of global biodiversity by over-using Russian natural resources and promoting unsafe nuclear energy. Corruption and anti-democratic behavior of the current Russian government has also led to negative impacts on Russia’s unique forests and natural heritage. Russian eco-activists and human rights defenders are also facing an increasingly repressive system which was constructed under Putin’s regime. The list of the victims of this system is unfortunately becoming longer and longer. Russian environmentalist Yevgeniy Vitishko spent 22 months in prison for a non-violent action. Journalist Mikhail Beketov was violently attacked in 2008, suffered serious injuries, and died in 2013. Our personal cases are also symbolic: because of our activism, and in order to protect our children, we were both forced to leave Russia and to seek political asylum in the European Union.

After your visit to Moscow and your meeting with Vladimir Putin you said that “the world deserve[s] a new commitment to collaborative dialogue between our governments to avert disastrous wars for geopolitical domination, destruction of the climate, and cascading injustices that promote violence and terrorism.” We agree with you. But how can this new “collaborative dialogue” be possible when Mr. Putin has deliberately built a system based on corruption, injustice, falsification of elections, and violation of human rights and international law? How is it possible to have a discussion with Mr. Putin and not mention, not even once, the fate of Russian political prisoners, or the attacks against Russian journalists, artists, and environmentalists? Is it fair to speak with him about “geopolitics” and not mention new Russian laws against freedom of speech, restrictions on NGOs and activists, or the shameful law that forbids “homosexual propaganda”?

By silencing Putin’s crimes you are silencing our struggle. By shaking his hand and failing to criticize his regime you are becoming his accomplice. By forgetting what international solidarity means you are insulting the Russian environmental movement.

Dr. Stein, you still have several weeks before the elections in order to clarify your position on the anti-democratic and anti-environmental elements of Putin’s regime. We sincerely hope that our voices will be heard and that our questions will not go unanswered

Best regards,
Evgeniya Chirikova
Nadezda Kutepova

H/t: Roland Dodds at That Place

Permalink 3 Comments

Anjem Choudry echoes the kitsch left

August 17, 2016 at 12:38 am (apologists and collaborators, conspiracy theories, fascism, islamism, left, SWP)

Anjem Choudary Cheerleading for IS

Comrade Dave writes:

I was reading this Hope not Hate post about Anjem Choudry who has been sent down for recruiting for Daesh.

What leapt out at me was some of the quotes sound familiar. They are pretty close, in fact share the language, to bits of the left when talking about the middle east or ‘anti imperialist’ regimes.

‘Blame the west’, tell barefaced lies about how tolerant a regime is, then justify its oppressiveness anyway article:

“What the policy of the West has always been is to divide and rule. What they want to say is that these people are extreme, so support the others so as to cause factions to fight with each other. But, in fact, if you look at the history of the Caliphate, even if you look now in the area controlled by the Islamic State, the Jews, the Muslims and the Christians are living side by side in security. It is not true that people are being slaughtered. Those people who are allied with the previous regime or those who are fighting against the Muslims, certainly they will be fought against.”

The blowback article.

“If you look at the death of James Foley,” he said, “you only have to listen to the person who is executing him to know that the blame is the Americans’ because of their own foreign policy. The fact is that decades of torture, cruelty and mass murder will have repercussions.”

The intimation that someone killed in appalling circumstances  is an American agent without actually saying it:

“Now,” he added, “I don’t know anything about these journalists, why they were there, whether they were spying or in fact part of the military. Often it turns out that people have other roles as well.”

This was for the ‘kuffar’ press. His stuff for Islamist audiences differed. But he had learnt all the stock anti imperialist and cultural relativist arguments from the kitsch left and recycled them.

Meanwhile running a global propaganda and recruitment network for Daesh.

Permalink 3 Comments

The irrelevance of Chilcot and the real issues at stake over Iraq

July 6, 2016 at 1:19 pm (apologists and collaborators, fascism, Galloway, imperialism, iraq, iraq war, Jim D, Middle East, reactionay "anti-imperialism", solidarity, Stop The War, SWP, Tony Blair, tragedy, war)

The Iraq Inquiry commitee

The long-awaited Chilcot Report is – understandably – of immense concern to those who lost family members in this ill-conceived adventure. But it was never going to deal with the crucial political issues at stake, nor help socialists develop a worthwhile programme for Iraq (the Worker-communist Party of Iraq made a serious attempt at this back in 2004).

Like many readers of this blog, I was on the massive anti-war march of 15 February 2003, and I’ve never had cause to regret it. But I don’t share the self-righteous preening of tyrant-lovers like Andrew Murray, and the loathsome, misnamed, ‘Stop The War Coalition’ (STWC) Even at the time, I was sickened by the refusal of the SWP, Galloway, Murray, etc to address the human rights issues and their systematic, deliberate, whitewashing of Saddam (Galloway, of course, being the most grovelling and egregious Saddam fan). A little later, their support for the fascistic gangs who were murdering Iraqi trade unionists alienated me once and for all. The subsequent degeneration of the STWC into a shrivelled Westphalian excuse-machine for vicious dictators and tyrants everywhere has only served to confirm my worst expectations.

Ian Taylor, an unrepentant marcher and anti-war campaigner, put his finger (in the New Statesman) on the central weakness of the ‘line’ of the SWP/Galloway leadership at the time, though he naively ascribed it to a lack of political imagination rather than a lack of political will:

“In my opinion, what we needed more than anything else was an answer to the dilemma of what should have been done about Saddam Hussein and the appalling human rights abuses that were undoubtably going on inside Iraq. Questions about this came up a great deal at public meetings, when leafletting the high street and in letters to local and national newspapers from supporters of the war. When asked about Iraq now, Blair always plays this card because he knows that opponents of the war don’t have an answer to it. If being on the left means anything, it ought to mean standing up for the oppressed. It shouldn’t have been beyond the wits of those speaking for the movement to have woven an answer to the problems of human rights abuses by non-western regimes into the fabric of their anti-imperialist principles. My view is that, just as we had weapons inspectors in Iraq, we should also have had human rights inspectors there. That would have done a lot to wrong-foot Blair et al.”

I can remember, in 2003, stumbling across the following searingly honest ‘Letter to an unknown Iraqi’ that pretty much summed up my own feelings at the time. I circulated it on the local STWC email list, where it didn’t go down terribly well. The issues it raises are still the crucial ones neither Chilcot nor the STWC are able to address:

The Urge to Help; The Obligation Not To

By Ariel Dorfman (February 28, 2003)

I do not know your name, and that is already significant. Are you one of the thousands upon thousands who survived Saddam Hussein’s chambers of torture, did you see the genitals of one of your sons crushed to punish you, to make you cooperate? Are you a member of a family that has to live with the father who returned, silent and broken, from that inferno, the mother who must remember each morning the daughter taken one night by security forces, and who may or may not still be alive? Are you one of the Kurds gassed in the north of Iraq, an Arab from the south displaced from his home, a Shiite clergyman ruthlessly persecuted by the Baath Party, a communist who has been fighting the dictatorship for long decades?

Whoever you are, faceless and suffering, you have been waiting many years for the reign of terror to end. And now, at last, you can see fast approaching the moment you have been praying for, even if you oppose and fear the American invasion that will inevitably kill so many Iraqis and devastate your land: the moment when the dictator who has built himself lavish palaces, the man who praises Hitler and Stalin and promises to emulate them, may well be forced out of power.

What right does anyone have to deny you and your fellow Iraqis that liberation from tyranny? What right do we have to oppose the war the United States is preparing to wage on your country, if it could indeed result in the ouster of Saddam Hussein? Can those countless human rights activists who, a few years ago, celebrated the trial in London of Chilean Gen. Augusto Pinochet as a victory for all the victims on this Earth, now deny the world the joy of seeing the strongman of Iraq indicted and tried for crimes against humanity?

It is not fortuitous that I have brought the redoubtable Pinochet into the picture.

As a Chilean who fought against the general’s pervasive terror for 17 years, I can understand the needs, the anguish, the urgency, of those Iraqis inside and outside their homeland who cannot wait, cannot accept any further delay, silently howl for deliverance. I have seen how Chile still suffers from Pinochet’s legacy, 13 years after he left power, and can therefore comprehend how every week that passes with the despot in power poisons your collective fate.

Such sympathy for your cause does not exempt me, however, from asking a crucial question: Is that suffering sufficient to justify intervention from an outside power, a suffering that has been cited as a secondary but compelling reason for an invasion?

Despite having spent most of my life as a firm anti-interventionist, protesting American aggression in Latin America and Asia, and Soviet invasions of Eastern Europe and Afghanistan, during the 1990s I gradually came to believe that there might be occasions when incursions by a foreign power could indeed be warranted. I reluctantly agreed with the 1994 American expedition to Haiti to return to power the legally elected president of that republic; I was appalled at the lack of response from the international community to the genocide in Bosnia and Rwanda; I applauded the Australian intervention to stop the massacres in East Timor; and, regarding Kosovo, though I would have preferred the military action to have taken place under the auspices of the United Nations, I eventually came to the agonizing conclusion that ethnic cleansing on such a massive scale could not be tolerated.

I am afraid that none of these cases applies to Iraq. For starters, there is no guarantee that this military adventure will, in fact, lead to a “regime change,” or peace and stability for your region.

Unfortunately, also, the present affliction of your men and women and children must be horribly, perversely, weighed against the impending casualties and enormous losses that the American campaign will surely cause. In the balance are not only the dead and mutilated of Iraq (and who knows how many from the invading force), but the very real possibility that such an act of preemptive, world-destabilizing aggression could spin out of control and lead to other despots preemptively arming themselves with all manner of apocalyptic weapons and, perhaps, to Armageddon. Not to mention how such an action seems destined to recruit even more fanatics for the terrorist groups who are salivating at the prospect of an American invasion. And if we add to this that I am unconvinced that your dictator has sufficient weapons of mass destruction to truly pose a threat to other countries (or ties to criminal groups who could use them for terror), I have to say no to war.

It is not easy for me to write these words.

I write, after all, from the comfort and safety of my own life. I write to you in the knowledge that I never did very much for the Iraqi resistance, hardly registered you and your needs, sent a couple of free books to libraries and academics in Baghdad who asked for them, answered one, maybe two, letters from Iraqi women who had been tortured and had found some solace in my plays. I write to you harboring the suspicion that if I had cared more, if we all had, there might not be a tyrant today in Iraq. I write to you knowing that there is no chance that the American government might redirect to a flood of people like you the $200 billion, $300 billion this war would initially cost, no real interest from those who would supposedly liberate you to instead spend that enormous amount of money helping to build a democratic alternative inside your country.

But I also write to you knowing this: If I had been approached, say in the year 1975, when Pinochet was at the height of his murderous spree in Chile, by an emissary of the American government proposing that the United States, the very country which had put our strongman in power, use military force to overthrow the dictatorship, I believe that my answer would have been, I hope it would have been: No, thank you. We must deal with this monster by ourselves.

I was never given that chance, of course: The Americans would never have wanted to rid themselves, in the midst of the Cold War, of such an obsequious client, just as they did not try to eject Saddam Hussein 20 years ago, when he was even more repressive. Rather, they supported him as a bulwark against militant Iran.

But this exercise in political science fiction (invade Chile to depose Pinochet?) at least allows me to share in the agony created by my own opposition to this war, forces me to recognize the pain that is being endured at this very moment in some house in Basra, some basement in Baghdad, some school in Tarmiyah. Even if I can do nothing to stop those government thugs in Iraq coming to arrest you again today, coming for you tomorrow and the next day and the day after that, knocking once more at your door.

Heaven help me, I am saying that if I had been given a chance years ago to spare the lives of so many of my dearest friends, given the chance to end my exile and alleviate the grief of millions of my fellow citizens, I would have rejected it if the price we would have had to pay was clusters of bombs killing the innocent, if the price was years of foreign occupation, if the price was the loss of control over our own destiny.

Heaven help me, I am saying that I care more about the future of this sad world than about the future of your unprotected children.

Permalink 1 Comment

Cause and effect: the shameful evasions and irresponsibility of the “left” Brexiters

June 19, 2016 at 9:37 pm (apologists and collaborators, Europe, Jim D, murder, populism, Racism, stalinism, SWP)

Above: the criminally irresponsible ‘Lexit’ campaign

No-one wants to use a horrible death to make political capital – it’s not done and it’s not decent.

But imagine this: after weeks of vicious racist propaganda in sections of the mainstream press and from the far-right of the Tory party, there is then a racist attack, even though it may be by a mentally ill  “lone wolf”: surely, the left would not hesitate to ascribe it to the racists in the press and the Tory party?

We might, privately, acknowledge that there isn’t, necessarily, a direct cause-and-effect relationship between the racist propaganda and this particular attack: but we’d be clear that words have effects and those responsible for stoking up racism deserve to be held accountable for the political atmosphere they’ve created, and, therefore, for any physical violence that follows.

A below the line commenter at Shiraz Socialist has made the following apposite observation regarding my previous post on this subject:

“A banal example: I got off the train at San Pietro during the period when the Pope prior to Ratzinger was dying. A women was writhing on the floor outside the station wailing about the Virgin Mary, her stigmata and how she was related as mother, to the coming ‘holy father’. The police arrived, people tapped their heads – simply a ‘nutcase’ (sic), mentally disturbed. True, but why was she ranting about the Pope and stigmata? Why not rant about Mickey Mouse or the Grand Patriarch? She was clearly influenced by the ideological images and various cultural forms in which she lived. This is Jim’s point I think and taken in this way, it is not without merit. If however, he is saying that the Brexit campaign had a direct causal effect on the killers actions and his illness, then the proposition cannot be sustained.”

I can accept that reasonable point, but it doesn’t change my question: why is much of the left so reluctant to link the murder of Jo Cox in any way to the racist campaign that has been waged by all sections of the Brexit campaign over the last couple of months? Partly, it’s an admirable sense of decency: a reluctance to politicise or seek to make political capital out of a tragic death – and that reaction is admirable.

But also (see, for instance, the craven editorial in Saturday’s Morning Star or this wretched, evasive piece in Socialist Worker) something more simple and more shameful is at work here: some idiot-leftists have been giving “left” cover to the racist Brexit campaign, and now they seek to evade their responsibility. They’d not be so reticent about ascribing blame for a racially-motivated murder under any other circumstances. I suspect that the more thoughtful and honest of them are now recoiling in horror at their role.

The truth is that, unlike the contemptible Labour xenophobe Gisela Stuart, the rather pathetic ‘Brexit’ campaign is so marginal and irrelevant to the main debate going on over the EU that their intervention will have little or no influence upon the final result. Even so, the “left” Brexiters will be branded with infamy by the serious left for their criminally irresponsible role during the referendum campaign.

Permalink 30 Comments

Compass loses its bearings in Scotland

June 8, 2016 at 7:42 pm (apologists and collaborators, capitulation, grovelling, labour party, posted by JD, reformism, scotland, SNP)

By Dale Street (also at the Workers Liberty website)

Well, it probably seemed a good idea at the time.

On 31 May Neal Lawson – chairperson of the “influential left-wing think tank” Compass – penned an open letter to the SNP calling for a “progressive alliance” with the Labour Party.

The letter might best be described as obsequious (synonyms: servile, ingratiating, unctuous, toadying, oily, greasy, grovelling and oleaginous). Its tone evokes that of someone fallen on hard times trying to tap a loan:

“Most esteemed Sirs! Mindful of your legendary munificence, I turn to you in my hour of need. Struck down by the vagaries of fate, I would humbly request a modest contribution from your financial largesse, to see me through until payday. I remain, your obedient servant, Neal.”

Lawson thinks he knows which buttons to press in his letter to the “progressive” (sic) SNP.

He writes “as a Londoner”. (You can smell the sackcloth and ashes as he typed that phrase.) He refers to “your country”. (Even though, as confirmed by the 2014 referendum, Lawson inhabits the same country as the SNP.)

Adopting the language of the SNP – Look! I’m really one of you! – he denounces the unholy trinity of “English Tory rule, the Daily Mail and the City of London”. (As chairperson of a think tank, Lawson probably found it too vulgar to go the whole hog and inveigh against “Westmonster” rule.)

Lawson professes to being “jealous of the political conversation you had as a nation over independence” and the consequent “rise in political consciousness”. But, Lawson continues, it’s time to move on. It cannot be a matter of independence or nothing.

“We have a duty to go around and beyond tribalism,” he writes. Another referendum is off the agenda for at least a decade. In Scotland and the rest of the UK “Labour knows they can’t win outright.” And trade unions are “shifting to embrace pluralism”.

(Momentum member Rhea Wolfson was recently denounced for supposedly having dismissed the importance of Labour winning in 2020. Labour Party member Neal Lawson goes a step further and writes off Labour’s chances completely. But maybe that’s what it takes to run an “influential” think tank.)

Ever so gently, Lawson mumbles in passing a couple of secondary concerns.

The SNP seems to have “shifted” from seeing independence as “a pragmatic tactic to build a good society” to seeing it as “an end in itself”. And SNP “party discipline” is transforming the SNP into a “machine” inappropriate for the fluidity of 21st century politics.

The solution to all this is a “progressive alliance” between the Labour Party and the SNP. “As ever,” concludes Lawson, “you must be bold and take the lead in forging a new politics. Compass is here to help.”

Lawson’s open letter achieves the rare feat of being even more ridiculous than the ritualistic calls for left unity periodically issued by the SWP.

The SWP knows that their open letters don’t deserve to be taken seriously. But Lawson – being the chairperson of an “influential” think tank – probably really does believe that his open letter constitutes the pinnacle of political acumen.

Lawson’s basic problem is simple ignorance.

The SNP is a nationalist party for which independence has always been an end in itself. To achieve that goal it wants to destroy the Scottish Labour Party and deprive trade unions of an organised political voice by securing their disaffiliation from the Labour Party.

This is something very different from trade unions “shifting to embrace pluralism”.

The referendum of 2014 saw class politics overwhelmed by nationalist grievance-mongering, nationalist scapegoating, nationalist tribalism, and nationalist irrationality. Lawson has a strange idea of what constitutes a “political conversation” worthy of envy.

The SNP is intolerant of dissent. Its MPs and MSPs are banned from making public criticism of SNP policies. Critical motions submitted to party conferences have been ruled out of order. And criticism from outwith the ranks of the SNP is denounced as “talking Scotland down”.

The reason for this intolerance is not to be found in the answer suggested by Lawson’s rhetorical question: “Is all this part of your (the SNP’s) incredible rise tapering off?” It has everything to do with the inherent nature of the SNP as a political project.

In power at Holyrood for nine years, the SNP’s policies have seen a slump in levels of educational achievement, increased class inequalities in education, cuts in NHS standards and increased waiting times, massive cuts in funding for local authorities, and subsidies for the middle classes at the price of cuts in jobs and services.

In its 2007-11 term of office the SNP relied on Tory votes when it suited them. In its referendum White Paper the only tax change promised by the SNP was a cut in corporation tax. In recent months the SNP has repeatedly voted with the Tories against a 50p tax rate for the richest.

All this – and much more – undermines Lawson’s claim that “something like Denmark on the English border” would have been the outcome of a ‘Yes’ vote in 2014.

(Yes, it’s true that Denmark has a hereditary monarchy, is a member of NATO, has seen a recent upsurge in support for populist nationalism, and is surrounded by water on three sides. But that probably isn’t what Lawson meant.)

Lawson is also blissfully unaware of the absurdity of his invocation of a “duty” to go “around and beyond tribalism”.

When the Lib-Dems won nearly 70% of the vote in the Orkney and Shetland constituencies in last month’s Holyrood elections, cybernats suggested that the islands be handed over to Norway.

Tory and Labour victories in Edinburgh in last month’s elections triggered demands by cybernats that the city’s English inhabitants be sent back to England.

And the cybernat response to the Tory victories in in Dumfries, Galloway and the Scottish Borders was to propose that the ‘border’ be redrawn so that the south of Scotland became part of England.

But there is hope on the horizon. Lawson’s letter may yet prove to be the start of a belated learning curve for its author. And the source of that potential education lies in the responses to the letter.

Lawson holds out the hand of friendship. But this is the response he gets:

“For us, it IS independence or nothing. … Why would the SNP form an alliance with a party that despises Scots? … Labour doesn’t only despise Scots. It despises everyone that is not Labour.”

“The biggest problem a progressive alliance faces in the UK is that the UK most of the time votes Tory. … Labour in Scotland is an ex-party. It has gone from dominating Scotland for 60 years to being an irrelevance on the way to total extinction.”

“I use the term ‘British Labour’ advisedly. Because it is necessary to constantly remind people that it is a British political party. A party of the British establishment.”

“There is no possibility of an alliance between British Labour and the SNP because they exist for entirely different and quite irreconcilable purposes. The SNP exists to serve the people of Scotland. British Labour exists to serve the ruling elites of the British state.”

“(Lawson wrote): It can’t just be about independence … Yes it can, if we decide that. What it can’t be is what anyone other than Scots decide it is. … Like most unionists, Lawson’s reaction can be reduced to a mixture of pique, resentment, confusion, loss, sadness and rejection.”

Lawson should also bear in mind that his article was published on Commonspace. That’s read by the ‘left wing’ of the Scottish-nationalist political spectrum. If that’s the response from the ‘left’, what would the more ‘mainstream’ nationalist response look like?

Permalink 9 Comments

Next page »