2022 kicked off with the news that war criminal Tony Blair was to receive a knighthood. The immediate backlash was overwhelming, with over a million people signing a petition against the award, culminating in a sizable protest outside Windsor Castle on 13 June. Peter Brierley, whose son Lance Corporal Shaun Brierley died in 2003 summed it up:

“To award such a man with the highest honour in the land is a disgrace and will further damage Britain’s reputation around the world.”

At Stop the War we’ll continue to do all we can to prevent the establishment glossing over Blair’s devastating crimes.

On 24th February our worst fears were confirmed when the Russian invasion of Ukraine began. From the off, Stop the War condemned the movement of Russian forces into Ukraine, urged for immediate withdrawal and pleaded for an end to escalation. We also stressed NATO’s role in provoking the conflict with its aggressive expansionist policies since the end of the Cold War.

Within 48 hours of Russian troops entering Ukrainian territory, we took to the streets across the UK, with emergency rallies organised up and down the country. On March 6th in London thousands marched demanding an alternative to war. Our ‘No to War in Ukraine’ rally at Conway Hall saw crowds spill out into the foyer as the speakers looked at the conflict’s origins and the possibilities of de-escalation. We insisted that pumping billions of pounds into military hardware would only result in further atrocity, death and destruction. As 2022 draws to a close, sadly our predictions have proven correct.

Alongside this, we co-hosted the first of many international days of action for peace in Ukraine, with leading activists from peace and anti-imperialist movements around the globe.

Soon after the invasion, the right-wing of the Labour Party used the Russian invasion as a catalyst to attack Stop the War. This was not only an attempt to undermine democracy but also to gag the anti-war voices within the party and the wider left. Keir Starmer launched a silencing mission over our position on NATO by threatening to remove the whip from 11 MPs unless they withdraw their names from our statement ‘on the crisis over Ukraine’. Starmer was using this crisis to prove his militaristic credentials and rid the party of any of the anti-war principles that Jeremy Corbyn had attempted to install.

Despite this, the anti-war movement has remained steadfast in its position for peace and has witnessed a significant increase in membership and activity. We’ve held over 100 events opposing the war including four days of action in local communities across the UK.  These include two successful meetings at the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool, one a packed fringe meeting and another event focusing on NATO at The World Transformed festival.

In this, it was vital that StWC continued, as we have done for decades, to look at the role of NATO past and present. The conflict in Ukraine is partly the product of thirty years of failed policies, including the expansion of NATO and US hegemony. This was the case made in our pamphlet, NATO: A War Alliance. In July, we hosted an online launch of the pamphlet with two of its contributors, Stop the War Officers Andrew Murray and Jenny Clegg. They questioned whether NATO is fit for purpose and why, after multiple military failures from Afghanistan to Libya, it remains unchallenged in foreign policy circles.

Governments on all sides have spent the year piling on more threats, more militarisation and more actions that not only makes nuclear war a possibility, but an increasing probability. The year’s campaigns have been dominated by the conflict in Ukraine and the mission to resolve the war peacefully based on a lasting negotiated settlement pushing for de-escalation. The British government has played a provocative role in the present crisis and continues to do so.

As the cost-of-living crisis deepened throughout Britain, our anti-war agenda became central to the economic debate. When talking about poverty, strikes and solidarity, defence and military spending became an inherent part of that discussion. As the NHS deteriorates, schools crumble and kids go hungry, the government is spending record amounts on war.

This year we’ve made a coordinated effort to present an alternative vision working alongside the anti-austerity movement. In June we had a big presence at the TUC ‘We Demand Better’ march, we marched against the Tory Party conference in Birmingham in October and at the People’s Assembly’s ‘Kick the Tories Out’ demo we formed a large ‘welfare not warfare’ bloc.

As well as the anti-austerity movement we have worked closely with our allies in the trade union movement. This year we have held stalls and interventions at every major union conference starting at the CWU conference in April and finishing with the Trade Union Congress in October. We also held successful fringe meetings at the NEU, FBU, UNISON and PCS conferences as well as joining a cracking Durham Miners Gala.

Controversially the TUC debated a motion which included calls for increased arms spending which was narrowly voted through despite our best efforts to lobby against it. StWC had a presence throughout the conference making the result particularly difficult to bear. The vote marks a serious setback for the labour movement and aligns the TUC with the Tory Party in banging the drums of war.

It’s never too late to reverse this, and it’s an aim we take into 2023 as we host our first ever Trade Union Conference on January 21st. We need a unified effort to fight against militarism and make clear the links between the expanding war machine and the falling living standards of ordinary working people – something Andrew Murray looks at in his latest pamphlet. The conference is open to all trade union members so book your spot today.

Besides all this we’ve continued to stand side-by-side with the Palestinian solidarity movement joining protests against the murder of Shireen Abu Akleh and the destruction of Sheikh Jarrah. We marked one year since the fall of Kabul with Tariq Ali in an online discussion, held a sold-out screening of The Coming War on China with John Pilger and we’ve proudly helped to organise events alongside the Don’t Extradite Assange campaign, including the inspiring protest which surrounded parliament at the start of October. We will continue to fight for Julian’s freedom until it becomes a reality.

We ended the year by raising £8000 at another brilliant Xmas Fundraiser. This meant we smashed our 2022 Appeal target of £30,000 and will be able to kick off 2023 stronger than ever. Even if you haven’t been able to contribute financially, we’d like to sincerely thank you for your ongoing support and wish you a peaceful festive season.

16 Dec 2022 by Stop the War

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