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John Rees at the Global Peace and Unity Event

Earlier this year, for a brief moment, Nick Griffin’s dreams came true. An invitation to the Queen’s Garden Party arrived, bearing his name, at the headquarters of the British National Party.

Nick was jubilant. Although his party had suffered a crushing defeat in the May elections, he was still an MEP. By virtue of that fact, the Palace had no choice but to issue the invitation. That invitation meant one thing to the fascists: respectability. He knew that he would photographed, cup of tea in hand, if he was lucky, with Her Majesty herself. That image would have adorned BNP posters for years to come.

Unfortunately, Nick Griffin messed up. He was judged to have made overtly political use of the invitation. He was banned.

The Global Peace and Unity Event performs a similar purpose to the Queen’s Garden Party. The idea is to get as many odious hate preachers as possible on to the bill, and then invite a number of mainstream figures and senior politicians to share a platform with them. Why do they do this? Because it allows them to claim an entirely spurious respectability, by association.

It is a technique which backfired, only once. The then shadow Attorney General, Dominic Grieve delivered a friendly broadside to them, naming certain of the hate preachers that they had invited to speak that year. An interesting footnote – Paul Goodman, the former Communities Secretary, recently posted a Youtube link to that speech on Conservative Home. Within a few days, the video had been removed!

The organisers of the GPU Event know full well that their hate preachers are controversial. That’s why they’ve been gradually adding their names to the list, one by one, in the hope that politicians and public figures will agree to attend, in ignorance of the full horror of the line up.

The worst of the GPU Event speakers have a number of preoccupations in common. They subscribe to one or more of the following: they incite religious hatred in theological terms, they support Islamist anti-democratic and terrorist politics, they applaud “the Resistance” in Iraq or Afghanistan, they are virulently homophobic, they support stoning, they are misogynists.

John Rees, of the Stop the War Coalition, ticks many of the same boxes as the worst Islamist hate preachers. He was, until recently, a member of the Central Committee of the Socialist Workers Party, a tiny Trotskyite cult, which fantasises that it will one day seize power, at the vanguard of a proletarian revolution. He resigned from the SWP in disgrace, the scapegoat for its foolish alliance with supporters of Jamaat-e-Islami in Tower Hamlets.

As he is speaking at the GPU Event, let us examine a few of his associations and public statements.

John Rees was one of the “original organisers of the Cairo Conference”, and is its Vice President (Europe). Here is its second declaration, originally hosted on the Stop the War Coalition website. It contains fantastical Protocols-like conspiricising about Israel:

Participants in the 2nd Cairo conference stress that the occupation of Iraq constitutes part of a US strategic plan to tighten its control over the world with a view to spread more US power over the world. It is also part of the Zionist plan, which targets the establishment of the greater State of Israel from to Nile to Euphrates

To revive the Middle Eastern project which gives Israel the leadership role in the region to the benefit of the interests of international capitalist monopolies and the spread of cultural patterns that serve the strategic objectives of the US on the expense of the Arab identity. Also, the US pressure to set up a free trade zone in the Middle East to support that objective.

As you might have guessed from the lunatic conspiracism mixed with chauvinism and infantile anti-capitalism, the Cairo Conference is the hub of the coalition between Western Communists and Middle Eastern Islamists. This is what they support:

Participants in the 2nd Cairo conference agreed that… to achieve that objective they will undertake the following measures:

… 6. Continue solidarity with the Iraqi people and its resistance against the occupation forces with all legitimate means including military struggle

Was John Rees at the Cairo Conference? He was:

In the opening session, John Rees from the Stop the War Coalition in Britain received loud applause when he said, “We stopped George Bush from launching his re-election campaign in London last month. Hundreds of thousands of ordinary people poured onto the streets. People have come from Britain in solidarity with you. This is not merely because we sympathise with your struggle, and that of Iraq and Palestine. We come because your struggle is our struggle, your enemy, our enemy…”

John Rees regards Britain, or at least its elected Government, and its armed forces, as his enemy.

Then, there is this remarkable report in Workers Liberty, of a speech given in 2004:

The final twist was provided by SWP leader John Rees at the Respect rally on 16 October [2004], when he told us that the World War Two analogy used by Galloway and Bambery originated with… members of Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army whom Rees had met in Beirut in September.

They had told him that they are “defending their country” and that to understand their methods we should think of the battles of the French and Italian Resistance during World War Two.

“I don’t propose to lecture the Iraqi people on the methods they use, and neither should we”, declared Rees.

Rees did not indulge in the pretence adopted by some British left-wingers who want to support Iraq’s “resistance” militias, that groups like the Mahdi Army or the Tawhid and Jihad group of al-Zarqawi are only a minority, and that much of the resistance is democratic and secular. No: he flatly identified with the Mahdi Army, and endorsed its ideology, which presumably he had passed on to Galloway and Bambery.

Indeed, this sort of unconditional support for the resistance was the very position of the Stop the War Coalition in its infamous, and controversial, October 2004 statement:

The StWC reaffirms its call for an end to the occupation, the return of all British troops in Iraq to this country and recognises once more the legitimacy of the struggle of Iraqis, by whatever means they find necessary, to secure such ends.

Something else Rees has in common with the organisers of the GPU is his desire for legitimation by association on a broad platform, all the better to get at the enemy. Here he is spelling out the strategy at the 2007 annual general meeting of the Stop the War Coalition:

We have an important role in this and I know this, and I’ll retell it just as it happened, from my discussions with Ali Fayyad, who is the international director of Hezbollah, and from my discussions with the international director of Lebanese Communist Party, who formed an alliance to repel the invasion by Israel last summer. We had a discussion at the Cairo conference, and some people said “wouldn’t it be better if the demonstrations in London or the demonstrations in the United States just had the slogan ‘Victory to the resistance’?”

Well you say that, but Ali Fayyad from Hezbollah, and the international director of the Lebanese CP do not say that. They say “Rather than 5,000 solely anti-imperialist demonstrators in London, we want to see the anti-imperialist demonstration on the street with hundreds of thousands of others to whom they can put the argument and to whom they can explain what happened here with the resistance.” They want us to be amongst them because they know that we can better cripple the government here with 100,000 people marching than with 5,000 people committed to the resistance marching.

John Rees at the annual general meeting of the Stop the War Coalition, Friends House, London, 2007

This, then, is the politics that John Rees practices.

This post focuses on just one aspect of his activities: his support for the Iraqi “Resistance” and his membership of organisations which endorsed “military struggle” against British forces. We could also consider his activities in Respect, and the murky world of Tower Hamlets politics into which he sank, almost without trace. But this one point should be sufficient.

No senior politician should share a platform with a speaker who supports attacks on British troops. It’s that simple. Just like a photo of Nick Griffin hobnobbing with the Queen, a name on a conference bill, alongside former Australian Prime Ministers, Mayors, Cabinet and Shadow Cabinet Members, and senior Clergymen is a stamp of respectability.

That stamp should not be granted.

Gene adds:
Unsurprisingly John Rees presents a series called “Timeline” on the Islam Channel, organizer of the GPU Event. The CST blog reviewed a program he did last year on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.