The recent onslaught on Stop the War is not about a fundraising dinner attended by Jeremy Corbyn, but something very different, explains Lindsey German

Lindsey German

Lindsey German

Lindsey German, Stop the War Convener, at the 12 December Stop Bombing Syria rally

The onslaught on the Stop the War Coalition in the past week has grown to something of a frenzy.

It is ostensibly about a fundraising dinner, held in London on Friday 11 December, attended by Jeremy Corbyn. But as usual with these sorts of attacks it is about something very different.

It is inconceivable that the attacks would be happening without the election of Corbyn as Labour leader.

It is also inconceivable for them to be happening without the British government having launched its fourth major military intervention in 15 years, this time joining the bombing of Syria.

While the government was able to win a vote in Parliament last week, it did so in the face of opposition from a large majority of Labour MPs, as well as the SNP, Plaid and Greens.

The majority of the shadow cabinet voted against war and the majority of Labour Party members clearly oppose it.

Corbyn’s leadership reflects that anti-war sentiment far better than the Blairites and neocons who have been launching these vitriolic attacks, desperate to get him to break with anti-war campaigning and hoping that such a move would weaken anti-war sentiment.

That isn’t going to happen. All the signs are that David Cameron’s case for war is unravelling. The lie he told, accepted by far too many MPs, that there are 70,000 “moderate rebels” who will provide ground troops for the air strikes has been widely disbelieved.

There are signs that civilians are being killed in French and Russian air strikes. There have been allegations of Syrian soldiers killed by US air strikes. And there is a major stand off between Turkey and Iraq after Turkish tanks encroached into Iraq.

None of this has made the headlines in most British media in recent days. Instead, those most in favour of bombing seem to be those most keen to create a smokescreen to divert attention from it and instead to target those who have a proud record of opposing wars, have fought consistently against all the disastrous interventions and who have called it right repeatedly.

The vast majority of those who are now attacking us, who include MPs who voted for war in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, also include the large majority of the mainstream media, who came out in support of those wars.

We should remember that the BBC sent a memo telling its employees not to go on the anti-Iraq war march in 2003. We should remember the Evening Standard’s claims that Saddam’s WMD could hit us in 45 minutes. And we should remember the cheerleading for Tony Blair’s wars by the Murdoch press in particular.

Tristram Hunt MP called ours a disreputable organisation. He was a supporter of Blairite Liz Kendall (4.7 per cent in the leadership election) and voted for war this time. He is a great admirer of Blair, architect of the Iraq catastrophe — and let’s remember Isis was born out of the occupation of Iraq.

Lumbered with a record of failed and discredited wars — all of which are still going on, 14 years after they began — and with the sense of growing opposition to this latest round of air strikes, the “Start the War Coalition” is throwing everything it can at our movement, an onslaught that sadly some Labour MPs have joined in.

MPs who operate in an atmosphere of regular business lobbying in parliament have the nerve to campaign about people lobbying to stop a war. They have also accused our supporters who lobbied their MPs of bullying and intimidation. Again, these accusations have turned out to be false: there was no picket of Labour HQ, no protests outside MPs’ houses and our lobbying letter was perfectly polite and reasonable.

Then there are the accusations that we are pro-Assad, pro-Isis, don’t support Syrians. Every war we have opposed has seen these accusations raised. We were accused of supporting the Taliban, Saddam Hussein, Gadaffi in Libya and now Assad. It has never been true, and it is the weakest of arguments for those supporting war that their opponents of necessity support the other side.

The task of any anti-war movement is to oppose its own government. The question of what happens in Syria is for the Syrian people to decide.

Within the anti-war movement there will be different views about what are the solutions to peace in the Middle East — the key question for us is opposing further intervention there by British and other forces.

Some on the left seem incapable of understanding this. But then, some on the left have never really understood the importance of a mass anti-war movement aimed at our government, even those like Darren Johnson, the Green Party London Assembly member who claims that he has formerly been a strong supporter of Stop the War.

He has clearly forgotten that at our founding organising meeting in 2001 he argued against the setting up of the organisation.

One of the major successes of Stop the War has been its ability to unite different forces. We will continue to do so.

The support we have received in recent weeks is in total contrast to these witch hunts, with many people joining, donating and coming out on the streets for our demos.

They are heartened to have a Labour leader like Corbyn who is a principled opponent of these wars. And they will not be deflected from the main task of opposing our own government’s role in the latest deadly intervention in the Middle East.

Source: Morning Star

19 Dec 2015

Sign Up