Andrew Fisher wants Stop the War to wind itself up, in the middle of a war, because of a vote at the TUC conference. No chance writes Andrew Murray

Andrew Fisher wants Stop the War to wind itself up, in the middle of a war, because of a vote at the TUC conference.

If the TUC had a veto over the existence of every left-wing organisation in the last century or so the British political landscape would have looked very different. The TUC has seldom been first to the progressive party, as sectional interests and the desire to stay on the good side of the Labour front bench have so often got in the way.

Just last year the TUC voted almost unbelievably to campaign for increased arms spending, at a time of public austerity, climate breakdown and a cost-of-living crisis. That was moved by the same union – the GMB – which championed the war resolution passed this week.  Fisher might not see that as “imperialism” but many across the world would differ.

Fisher misrepresents Stop the War’s policy to justify his lament that the movement has let him down personally.

We opposed the Russian invasion of Ukraine from the first, have declared our solidarity with anti-war Russians like Boris Kagarlitsky and been unequivocal in our support for Ukrainian refugees in Britain.

What we have not done is turned a blind eye to NATO expansion nor to the US attempts to bring Ukraine under its hegemony, things which contributed to the present crisis.

Our position aligns with that of most of the Global South, which wants urgent peace negotiations and a ceasefire. The TUC instead voted to back British government policy in seeking the indefinite prolongation of the war unless maximalist demands are met, which no serious observer believes will happen and which could only be imposed at the heightened risk of nuclear conflict.

Fisher also exaggerates Stop the War’s “isolation” on this issue.  Significant unions declined to back the TUC resolution, including NEU, UCU, RMT and FBU. Moreover, the motion passed diluted the original demands proposed by the GMB and it was accompanied by a statement from the TUC General Council claiming that it did not intend to set preconditions for peace talks – two modifications which reflect our campaigning.

It is beyond strange that Fisher invokes the position of the Socialist Campaign Group of MPs. In fact, twelve members of the group – at least half its active membership – signed a Stop the War letter on the conflict only to be forced to withdraw their signatures under threat of losing the whip.

The silence of Left MPs on the war is an enforced silence, imposed by the same tactics that Starmer has used to crush dissent throughout the Labour Party. The only MPs allowed to be heard are those who support the front bench line. I cannot believe that Fisher regards that as a good thing.

Indeed, if Fisher is looking for organisations that could be wound up on grounds of redundancy, there are several in the Labour Party, which has watched the Corbyn movement disappear without any effective opposition, that he could consider.

Nor is it even true that the “war on terror” is over. That would be news to millions living in West Africa, or in Yemen where, as in Ukraine, British arms and military personnel are embroiled in a humanitarian disaster.

Stop the War has swum against the trade union tide before. The TUC declined to support the two million strong march against the Iraq War in 2003 because it prioritised staying on good terms with New Labour ministers over the lives of Iraqis (and British soldiers). Rank-and-file pressure in the large unions was vital in changing that and became an important part of our coalition.

More and more people across Europe are now turning against the war and understand that governments like the British share responsibility with Putin for its prolongation. Indeed, a poll conducted in France and Germany by Putin’s opponents found that more people in both countries blamed the USA and NATO for starting the war than Russia.

Stop the War believes that the key issue now is how the conflict is ended, respecting Ukrainian sovereignty, the rights of minorities and the security of all. The TUC motion and Andrew Fisher offer nothing on that score.  As for Stop the War, much as we would all love it to be no longer needed, we will continue campaigning – until the war stops.

15 Sep 2023 by Andrew Murray

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