This is a cross-post by Paul Canning
Last weekend something remarkable happened, well two things.
First, Stop The War Coalition [STWC] actually walked something back. They had published, as is their want, a repugnant piece by Matt Carr which compared the International Brigades of the Spanish Civil War to ISIS. Cue outrage on social media, including from a number of Labour MPs. Less than a day later Carr’s work had been taken down but not before its author had ‘explained’ himself by digging himself a deeper hole.
Secondly, an anonymous spokesperson for the Labour Party was quoted in several media articles saying that the piece “had been taken down because it did not reflect the organisation’s [STWC] views.” That person then went on to defend STWC and claim that during the group’s existence they had “repeatedly called it right.”
Paul Waugh quoted a source, not named as such but presumably the same Labour one, saying about the Carr post: “This is the second time this has happened, it won’t be happening again.” (The ‘first’ time was their also taken down response to the Paris attacks that the French were “reaping the whirlwind of western support for extremist violence.”)
How the heck would that Labour source know that? STWC is not an affiliate of the party, by what possible method could the party enforce its will and hence make that promise?
If the party is now saying it has this intimate connection to STWC then everyone needs to know what exactly it is tying itself to. Waugh also reports a source telling him that SWTC will “get a grip” on its website so clearly a spring clean is being attempted in the hope that the world will buy it and move on. The world should not move on. The world needs to drop STWC like a stinky hot brick, and that includes ‘anti-war’ activists.
Forget ‘Blairite smears’
Writing in the New Statesman the socialist Michael Chessum, co-founder of The National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, lamented that the movement against intervention in Syria had been relatively small. Why?
At the core of the British anti-war movement there has been a failure of internationalism. In running a campaign against British intervention in Syria, Stop the War has seemingly run a campaign with as little reference to Syrians as possible, and it stands accused of outright apologism for Russia and Assad, giving platforms to regime loyalists. As a result, the relatively simple anti-war narrative – opposition to British bombing, condemnation of Turkey and Assad, and practical solidarity with secular and progressive forces in Syria – has lost its clarity and persuasiveness in the public eye.
In order to effectively oppose future wars and escalations, the anti-war movement will need to regroup and renew itself. The simplified, reactive politics of recent years needs to be replaced with a genuinely internationalist movement: one that builds solidarity with labour movements and progressive forces on the ground, and opposes dictatorships and imperialist ventures regardless of who is behind them.
He is hardly the first socialist to bemoan the behaviour of STWC. Way back in 2003 the activist and comedian Mark Thomas was warning that it was a front for a hard left interested most of all in recruiting new members. Twelve years ago, in a spooky echo of Chessum, Thomas wrote:
The peace movement could do a lot worse than start to organise a coalition free from SWP [ Socialist Workers Party] domination, one that regards peace as the goal and co-operation as the means of getting there.
Comrade Andrew Coates has made similar points to Chessum’s. Responding to the traditional ‘blowback’ response from STWC’s Lindsey German following the Woolwich killing Coates wrote:
We can agree that Western intervention is wholly wrong. It has stoked the fires of conflict in all the countries she cites.But is removing it a solution to the rise of violent anti-democratic Islamism?Perhaps we should be, as the left, giving some energy to supporting the democratic left in these lands who offer a real political alternative to Islamism, authoritarian, intolerant, or indeed jihadist.That involves a genuine politics of human rights.This is the way to start thinking of how a solution can come about.The failure of much of the British left to back the Arab democratic left is part of the problem.
Another socialist, the writer, poet and broadcaster Anna Chen, is a former STWC publicity officer and one of those most responsible for getting the numbers to the anti-Iraq war march. Her insider account of the behaviour of those controlling STWC is eye popping. After putting up with a lot she finally left – with another message which should resonate down the year:
Who needs this crap?
Do read Paul’s post in full here