How successful this belated attempt to starve Judy Garland of the oxygen of publicity will be in suppressing unseemly public glee at the passing of Baroness Thatcher is doubtful.
But if Sunday’s unlikely victim of nervous self-censorship is just a musical theatre child prodigy from the thirties, we can be sure that future victims will include those with the ‘bad taste’ to speak out against the criminal wars and domestic repression engineered by our ‘democratic’ rulers.
With the NUJ busy patting Leveson on the back and the BBC jumping into self-censorship without waiting to be pushed, only journalists of unusual courage can be expected to resist the big freeze that’s coming.
Even comrades can take time out to watch TV and catch up on the propaganda given out not on the news or in documentaries, but in regular drama or comedy programmes. On Sunday 31 March there were three high-budget dramas on offer. Foyle’s War (ITV), The Village (BBC1) and The Labyrinth (Channel 4).
Foyle’s War, which makes a hero of a detective turned MI5 agent in the immediate post-war period, lends itself to propaganda, but it is cleverish and nuanced and avoids the obvious howlers by having what it presents as a ‘balance’ of Labour and Tory supporters among the secondary characters.
That does not mean that Foyle’s War is not poisonous, though. It most certainly is. One of the murder victims on the night in question turned out to be an NVKD agent and, for the benefit of the young and/or ignorant in the TV audience, the NVKD was described as the “Russian Gestapo” and all references to Stalin bracketed him with Hitler.
There is no doubt at all that Foyle’s War is being used as yet another vehicle to merge Stalin and Hitler in the public mind.
There were also more domestic bits of propaganda in the show. One of the characters was standing as the Labour candidate in a by-election. He was presented as high-minded and principled, while his election agent, who wanted to use (wait for it) information received about the Tory candidate having been a black-market profiteer, is painted as unprincipled for wanting to use ‘dirty tricks’ and talk about ‘personalities’ rather than policies.
Put aside what we all think about the Labour party (now and in the 1940s) and think of the propaganda agenda behind this condemnation of the election agent for revealing that the opposing candidate was a black marketeer. Foyle’s War presents the revelation in the press as ‘dirty tricks’, while the actual crime of black marketeering is sidelined as irrelevant.
This is exactly the thinking the ruling elite want us to have in the post-Leveson world. Doubles all round for Foyle’s War for toeing the bourgeois line.
As to the other two Sunday night offerings, The Labyrinth was an overblown costume drama which presented the cathars as a wonderful bunch of people unfairly persecuted by catholic villains, the catholics in question being presented as so stage-evil the show could have been written by a bunch of UDA men.
The cathars were all so long ago, it might not seem to matter, but nothing is too remote to be used for bourgeois propaganda. The cathars actually make unpleasant heroes: cack-handed Malthusians before their time, they believed the world was ruled by the devil and that it was wrong to have children as birth trapped a wonderful free-roaming soul in an evil material body.
Last, but certainly not least, the cathars thought suicide was not only acceptable but desirable as it purified the soul.
Arguably, the Catholic Church did the world a favour (for once) by getting rid of these miserable negative lunatics, but here in 2013, when the bourgeoisie wants us to think ‘There is no alternative’ to the capitalism-devil that rules the world (and those of us who don’t like it can go top ourselves), we find the demented cathars glorified on mainstream TV.
Co-incidence? Not on your nelly/telly.
Lastly there was The Village, trailed as the thinking person’s Downton Abbey. Over endless episodes, beginning in 1914, it is supposed to show a hundred years of English history through the life of one Derbyshire village in general and through the life of one working-class man in particular.
About 8 years old when the story begins, ‘Bert’ has a mad drunk violent father whose behaviour would be considered extreme and unacceptable among the very worst of the urban criminal lumpenproletariat, and would just not have been tolerated in a small village where people and families had not only all known each other for generations but were quite often related.
This confusing of the working class with a savage and drunken lumpenproletariat is now a cultural commonplace, and reinforcing this deliberate conflation is the essential propaganda message of The Village. But there are other pernicious messages, too.
As we approach Cameron’s great First World War Commemoration Bonanza, perhaps the most important (in the first episode and presumably beyond) was the presentation of the reaction of the village population to the first world war. Not one dissident voice was raised on The Village. Instead, the very moment war was declared, all the young men marched off happily.
In reality, there were many immediate volunteers, cock-sure they would be home by Christmas, but to present the entire working-class population as willing volunteers is a travesty of the truth.
Two days before war was declared (on 4 August 1914), there was a massive anti-war demonstration in Trafalgar Square. Much like the massive demonstration against the Iraq war, the protest was ignored by the ruling elite (then fronted by the Liberals), who went to war anyway to protect their masters’ profits.
No doubt in years to come the bourgeoisie will try to present support for the Iraq war as universal too, but we know that was not so, and we must also remind a new generation (who will inevitably get caught up in the coming propaganda-fest) that the millions who endured or died in the great working-class massacre of WW1 were the victims of capitalism – and most of them had the nous to know it.
The true spirit of '45: A Soviet soldier hoists the red flag over the Reichstag in Berlin, marking the complete defeat of Nazi fascism.
There are some good bits in Spirit of ’45, the new film from Ken Loach. Some of the interviews and archive footage about working-class life in the 1930s are a poignant and timely reminder of the social horrors inflicted by capitalism in the throes of a global overproduction crisis – right down to the vermin-infested blankets and deadly absence of health care.
And the juxtaposition of such cruel personal reminiscence with the end-of-war scenes of jubilation and hope from 1945 could have set the context for a much more interesting film, taking a fresh look at the birth (and premature death) of the welfare state.
Instead, we are offered yet another panegyric on the supposed achievements of ‘old’ Labour ‘heroes’ like Clement Attlee and Herbert Morrison.
Not a word is said about the imperialist superprofits upon which the ruling class crucially depended to subsidise these temporary and partial concessions to the working class.
Not a word is said about the poisonous pro-imperialist policy of the Labour government, hell-bent on preserving those same superprofits, no matter what the cost to the hundreds of millions of people locked in colonial bondage around the world.
It was that threat of a good revolutionary example set by the Soviet Union that emboldened workers to demand “no return to the ’30s”. And it was the special role of Labour imperialism to help deliver a ‘welfare state’ – a pale capitalist imitation of the Soviet original – in such a way as would simultaneously tie the working class to the colonial agenda of monopoly capital and clear the way for the post-war reversion to anti-communist red-baiting (on a script written by Orwell, another of Loach’s ‘heroes’).
All of this is a closed book for the filmmaker.
Starved of any international context, the film stumbles on impressionistically, locked always behind the little-British narrowness that remains the trademark everywhere of ‘left’ social democracy.
After airing some woolly criticisms of the earlier shortcomings of the reforms (same old managers at the National Coal Board, failure to nationalise all transport), the film hastens on to the sudden arrival of the Bad Fairy, Thatcher, and her (unexplained and apparently personal) crusade to smash everything up.
Just one of the film’s talking heads makes a single brief reference to the overproduction crisis, but beyond that there is no attempt to explain what was fuelling the assault upon workers’ conditions and rights. In fact, having finished its history-hopping journey from the ’30s through ’45 to the advent of Thatcherism, nothing remains but to open the screen to a few soundbites from some pale anti-communist ‘left’ luminaries like Tony Benn, John Rees and Alex Gordon, before the film finally runs out of steam and the credits roll.
As the deepest ever overproduction crisis is pushing Britain’s ruling class to accelerate its dismantlement of the welfare state, Spirit of ’45 is an opportunity missed to examine not only what brought Britain’s hard-bitten imperialist rulers to make such serious concessions to workers in the first place, but also why those concessions were only ever going to be temporary while the capitalist system remained in place.
These are questions whose answers are urgently needed to permeate the workers’ movement if we are going to be successful in breaking out of the downward spiral of imperialist poverty, crisis and war. Lasting rights for workers will not be won by going back to the ‘good old’ reformist dreams of ’45 – days that inevitably led to where we are today – but by smashing the capitalist system and going forward to build socialism.
'Kiringul', which translates as 'Kirin's lair', is one of the sites associated with King Tongmyŏng, the founder of Koguryŏ, an ancient Korean kingdom.
Did anyone see the feeble little piss-take Ian Hislop and co did last week on Have I Got News For You about gullible north Koreans supposedly believing in unicorns?
The real story turns out to be that archaeologists from the DPRK have found some interesting evidence that an important ancient city that features in folk legends might have been situated close to the present day Pyongyang.
Legend has it that in ancient times a famous king founded the city. The ‘unicorn’ just comes into it as a mistranslation of a Korean word denoting a mythical beast on which the king was supposed to ride.
Turning this straightforward story about an archaeological dig into a slander about thick Koreans swallowing commie lies may pass for cutting edge satire at the BBC but will only fool the terminally credulous.
Are thick Brits now to be pilloried for believing in giants (who else would inhabit the Giants’ Causeway?), in dragons (what else did St George fight?), or in (most far-fetched yet) the honesty and objectivity of the BBC lie machine?
This motion was passed unanimously at the recent CPGB-ML party congress
This congress salutes the people and leaders of Syria in their continuing resistance to the murderous islamist rebellion fomented by the West, and sends its congratulations to the Syrian army for the strenuous measures it has been undertaking in Aleppo and elsewhere against the armed rebellion and its foreign auxiliaries.
Congress denounces the vicious imperialist meddling in Syria’s internal affairs, which has for its goal the forcible removal of Syria’s president and the sectarian destruction of Syria’s unity and independence.
Congress further denounces the role played by Turkey in providing the rebels with a military base area, the role played by Saudi Arabia and Qatar in arming and funding the insurgency, and above all the barely-concealed imperialist, primarily US imperialist, hand that lies behind the proxy war being fought out by the incompetent thugs of the misnamed ‘Free Syria Army’ (FSA).
In particular, this congress denounces the pipsqueak British foreign minister William Hague’s recent proposal to funnel “humanitarian aid” through the FSA.
This congress applauds the steadfast refusal of both Moscow and Beijing to aid and abet the West’s criminal adventure in Syria, and congratulates them on having decisively wrested the diplomatic initiative from the warmongers, leaving imperialism without a fig-leaf to camouflage its warlike intentions.
This congress notes with satisfaction the declaration by Iran’s envoy Saeed Jalili that Iran stands with her neighbour in an “axis of resistance” which cannot be broken, and urges British workers to likewise stand shoulder to shoulder with Syria in our own unbreakable “axis of resistance”.
This congress reaffirms its belief that an anti-imperialist victory for Syria will in turn weaken imperialism’s axis of oppression – a welcome setback not least for our own British imperialist ruling class.
Congress therefore calls on workers in Britain to refuse to cooperate with the criminal aggression against Syria, whether by fighting directly, making or transporting arms, or assisting in the broadcast of slander and lies demonising the Syrian leadership, and resolves to do all in its power to spread awareness of the need for such active non-cooperation.
Victory to Syria!
Victory to President Assad!
Death to imperialism!
In response to the irresponsible, hypocritical and reactionary behaviour of the Birmingham Amnesty International group and their plans to push war propaganda on the streets of Birmingham, comrades from Red Youth, CPGB-ML, AIWAA, IWA(GB) and others prepared a counter-demonstration on 12 April in Birmingham.
It is the firm conviction of these comrades and other anti-imperialists that we cannot allow what happened in Libya to be repeated in Syria. It is also their firm conviction that if Stop the War Coalition is incapable of opposing this warmongering then it is up to communists and revolutionaries to get on with the task alone.
The following statement was distributed and communicated to the Amnesty dupes:
Amnesty allows itself to be used as a tool for war, ethnic cleansing and imperialist aggression
We have no doubt that Amnesty International contains a number of well-meaning supporters, people with genuine compassion. It is from this belief that we are outraged by the continual stream of lies, hypocrisy and war propaganda that emanates from Amnesty International, hoodwinking its members, volunteers and the general public alike into supporting acts of genocide, ethnic cleansing and regime change.
It was precisely the above which was the outcome, indirectly and not so indirectly, of the position adopted by Amnesty International in relation to the war against Libya. Amnesty always seems quick to make claims of rights abuses when it serves the interests of imperialism, echoing the lies and misinformation of the corporate western media machine. But it is strangely slow to learn the awful lessons that echoing such lies enables real atrocities to be committed by imperialist forces – and on an incomparably larger scale than the often non-existent ‘abuses’ they claim to be ‘reporting’ in the first place.
Having made a host of inflammatory and ultimately false statements in the French media alleging the use by Colo-nel Gaddafi of ‘mercenaries’ during last year’s predatory war of aggression by Nato, Amnesty International President Genevieve Garrigos was forced to admit five months later that there had been no evidence to support any of her claims.
An investigation by Donatella Rivera exposed Garrigos who had peddled inaccurate information and lies. Garri-gos eventually admitted in an interview: “Donatella was right to verify if we actually found mercenaries. And we didn’t.” (A video of this interview and copy of the state-ment can be seen at redyouth.org.)
As a result of the spurious information, lies and falsifications she and her team put out, Garrigos helped stoke the fires of war. She helped to cause the unnecessary suffering and death of tens of thousands of Libyans, including untold numbers of black Libyans. It is now widely known and reported by the UN Human Rights Council and by Human Rights Watch that the Libyan ‘rebels’ whom Amnesty was so quick to champion were in fact the ones committing ethnic cleansing of black Libyans in Tawergha and beyond.
It is therefore out of a genuine concern for the many honest supporters and champions of human rights who undoubtedly reside within Amnesty that we protest against the campaign’s persistent use of slander, innuendo, half-truths, untruths, rumour and damned falsification – all presented to the world as fact.
It is with this knowledge, and with a real love for freedom, democracy and liberty, that we call on Amnesty’s anti-Assad protesters to correct their position on the question of Syria and oppose the dirty war propaganda that emanates from the Birmingham group of Amnesty.
Amnesty calls for ‘defiance’
A leaflet advertising a demonstration in Birmingham on 12 April 2012, and seemingly produced by Amnesty International’s Birmingham group, calls for people to “Stand for Syria, in solidarity – in defiance”. This piece of war propaganda claims that there have been five decades of human-rights abuses in Syria, that there has been a 14-month ‘brutal crackdown’, and that hundreds have been mistreated and tortured. The intention of the leaflet is to create the impression that there exists in Syria a most despotic and cruel regime; a regime that tortures, punishes and imprisons hundreds, nay thousands, of its own citizens, including children.
Whilst Amnesty claims that there have been five decades of repression in Syria, the truth is rather different. The Syrian people enjoy a standard of living envied by many in the Middle East. The country’s long-standing commitment to secularism has ensured a relatively peaceful and prosperous half-century for its people, who come from many different nationalities, cultures and religions. Which other country in the Middle East provided safety and refuge to millions of families who fled Iraq during the last Iraq war? What other country has done so much to assist the Palestinian struggle for national liberation?
Since the outbreak of the imperialist supported violence last year, regular demonstrations have been held across Syria, with tens of thousands of people from all sections of this diverse society showing their support for the president and government, and not for the anti-government militias.
It is with this in mind that we must ask ourselves what role Amnesty is playing in calling demonstrations that imply tacit support for the gang of terrorist mercenaries calling themselves the ‘Free Syrian Amy’. Not least as the FSA are assembled, supplied, supported and sheltered by such standard-bearers of freedom and democracy as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Israel, the United States and Turkey.
Once again, Amnesty International is doing the dirty work of imperialism. It is providing whatever pretext can be found for the overthrow of a legitimate government, a legitimate president, and the murder, torture and butchery of soldiers who comprise the regular standing army of the Syrian republic.
But who the hell are the directors of Amnesty to interfere, in complete violation of international law, with the internal business of a sovereign state?
Whilst Israel pushes ahead with its policy of ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, Amnesty turns a blind eye and (in Birmingham at least) organises no protest. Whilst Israel is gripped by the heroic struggle of Palestinian hunger strikers and freedom fighters, Amnesty has chosen this moment to talk about Syrian prisoners.
Whilst Saudi troops commit acts of ferocious barbarity in Bahrain, Amnesty Birmingham wants us to “push for an end to the bloodshed in Syria”!
Whilst black Libyans are butchered every day by racist, terroristic ‘rebels’ as a direct result of the horrendous and catastrophic war, allegedly waged for ‘humanitarian assistance’ and delivered by the F16s, stealth bombers and tomahawk missiles of the imperialist armies, Amnesty International wants to provide a pretext for further carnage in Syria!
The truth about Syria is that it is a thorn in the side of imperialism in the Middle East. Its long-standing commitment to independence and national sovereignty has incurred the wrath of the United States, who long ago marked the country out as a part of the ‘axis of evil’.
Learn the lessons of history
In campaigning for a return to the Russian presidency, outgoing prime minister Vladimir Putin said that Moscow would not allow a replay of the events in Libya: “Learning from that bitter experience, we are against any UN Security Council resolutions that could be interpreted as a signal for military interference in domestic processes in Syria.”
In seeking to overthrow the patriotic and progressive government in Damascus, imperialism also seeks to deliver a knockout blow to Hizbollah, thereby strengthening Israel. Above all, in seeking to destroy its most significant regional military ally, the attack on Syria is a vital stepping stone to yet another war of aggression, this time against Iran, beyond which lies the global conflagration that confrontation with China and Russia would entail.
We must not fall for the war propaganda used to ‘justify’ imperialist aggression, and certainly should take no part in spreading these lies and falsifications.
In a very real sense, Syria today stands in the same place, as did the Spanish Republic in 1936. British workers and progressive people need to stand in their place, demanding:
Invisible Children's founders pose with members of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army in April 2008
‘Going viral’ refers to the phenomenon of a video or website becoming popular, or at least widely known, via the medium of public sharing.
In the age of social networking this is no longer as impressive as it once was, but nonetheless it was certainly surprising when Kony 2012 – a short documentary which purported to dish the dirt on a fundamentalist christian terrorist organisation in Uganda, known as the Lord’s Resistance Army, and its not-so-charismatic leader Joseph Kony – ‘went viral’ a few weeks ago. And it was even more surprising when, just as his popularity was peaking, the director of Kony 2012 was arrested for public masturbation.
So, masturbation aside, what on earth is going on here?
Kony 2012 is the 11th documentary released by an allegedly not-for-profit organisation called Invisible Children. All eleven documentaries produced by Invisible Children have been about the same subject – Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army.
The name ‘Invisible Children’ refers to the group’s principal gripe with the LRA, namely, its use of child soldiers in its war against the Ugandan state. Not content with merely documenting the situation in Uganda, however, Invisible Children seeks to prescribe a solution: it wants US military action both in Uganda and in central Africa more generally. This is not a covert objective, but a stated goal of the organisation.
Invisible Children is not just an advocacy group, but also an active supporter of imperialist causes in Africa. It channels a sizable percentage of the revenue it accrues through donations and merchandise sales directly into the Ugandan army and government, as well as the armies and governments of several other central African states.
The reality is that Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army are a bugbear whose relatively minor role in African regional politics has been grossly distorted by Invisible Children. This was the point made by three commentators writing in the US establishment’s Foreign Policy journal in November of last year: “[Invisible Children] manipulates facts for strategic purposes, exaggerating the scale of LRA abductions and murders and emphasising the LRA’s use of innocent children as soldiers, and portraying Kony — a brutal man, to be sure — as uniquely awful, a Kurtz-like embodiment of evil.”
Moreover, though Invisible Children continues to focus on the LRA’s activities in Uganda, most experts are now questioning whether the group still operates in Uganda at all.
Arthur Larok, the director of Action Aid in Uganda, has criticised Invisible Children on precisely this point: “Six or 10 years ago, this would have been a really effective campaign strategy to get international campaigning. But today, years after Kony has moved away from Uganda … I’m not sure that’s effective for now. The circumstances in the north have changed.”
These changed circumstances are also highlighted by the freelance journalist Michael Wilkerson, who has pointed out that “in 2006, the LRA was pushed out of Uganda and has been operating in extremely remote areas of the DRC, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic. … the small remaining LRA forces are still wreaking havoc and very hard to catch, but northern Uganda has had tremendous recovery in the six years of peace”.
So why do Invisible Children continue to act as though Uganda is the LRA’s main base of operations and, moreover, that the LRA are a serious threat? The answer is either shameful ignorance or deliberate deception. Whichever of these two is the correct answer, Invisible Children’s shortcomings as documentarians have certainly been helpful in furthering the foreign policy aims of the United States.
As senior research fellow at the Makerere Institute of Social Research in Uganda, Adam Branch, has pointed out, the popularity of Invisible Children’s campaigns “[has been] an excuse that the US government has gladly adopted in order to help justify the expansion of their military presence in central Africa”.
More specifically, by appearing to be ‘responding’ to misguided public pressure on Uganda, the Obama administration has been given a useful cover for expanding its military presence in the country at precisely the time when its unpopular, pro-western government, and the lucrative oil contracts that it can dispense, are under threat from the population whom it has been exploiting.
Invisible Children and its supporters, whether they realise it or not, are playing a significant role in supporting western imperialism in central Africa. Through their ignorance of the complex reality of African regional politics and their naïve prejudices and faith in the altruistic motivations of imperialism, they have given ammunition (both figurative and literal) to the worst forces of reaction and obscured the fact that American troops in Uganda are not there to help the children of central Africa, but to help the US imperialist aims of monopolising Africa’s oil and mineral wealth and trying to undermine China’s ability to trade on the continent.
If people in the imperialist countries are serious about helping the people of central Africa, it is not Joseph Kony they need to focus on, but imperialist looting – and the military force it uses, both directly and indirectly, to back that up. As Adam Branch has said: “In terms of activism, the first step is to re-think the question: Instead of asking how the US can intervene in order to solve Africa’s conflicts, we need to ask what we are already doing to cause those conflicts in the first place. How are we … contributing to land grabbing and to the wars ravaging this region? How are we, as US citizens, allowing our government to militarise Africa in the name of the ‘War on Terror’ and its effort to secure oil resources?”
The following email was sent to us for promotion and we ask all anti-war and civil-liberties campaigners to spread it far and wide.
I know our MPs are a shower of spineless crooks and opportunists, but what is going on here is a serious attempt by the UK state to criminalise non-support for OurHeroes(TM), and we should all be very very worried about this.
We all need to make as much of an uproar about this as possible, and that includes writing to our MPs in droves — there are LOADS of people out there who are with us on this, and we need to do everything in our power to stop these people being cowed into silence by the state, by politicians, and by the media.
PASS IT ON.
Azhar Ahmed's post on Facebook
Dear [insert MP or other 'representative's' name here]
I should be most grateful if you would consider giving your support for the following.
Petition to Mr Keir Starmer QC, Director of Public Prosecutions, Crown Prosecution Service.
His comments amount to rage about civilian deaths that Nato and ISAF forces, including British soldiers, are seen as responsible for. There is nothing ‘racially aggravated’ about the comments, and they are not a direct plan for violence or incitement to violence. They are rage expressed in symbolic form, in terms of hell.
I believe this kind of charge brings our justice system into disrepute in the public conscience, is not in the public interest, and that this case should be urgently reviewed by the Director of Public Prosecutions himself, to consider whether it is a sensible interpretation of the law and whether bringing a charge is in the public interest.
In support of the above, I would like to remind you that the right of peoples to defend themselves against foreign invasion is enshrined in the UN Charter. Just as the French, Russian, Yugoslav, and other peoples had the right to defend themselves against German soldiers, and the Vietnamese people had the right to defend themselves against American soldiers, so too do the Afghan people have the right to defend themselves against British soldiers.
From the International Report delivered to the CPGB-ML’s central committee on 4 March.
Syria is undoubtedly the intended next target for western imperialist aggression. Imperialist plans have been delayed by the refusal at the United Nations of Russia and China to back the call for a no fly-zone, but imperialism’s aggressive intent has in no way been dissipated.
More and more information in the meantime is emerging of imperialism’s preparations over the last decade for overthrowing Syria’s regime, while the same stream of lies and disinformation issue relentlessly from the bourgeois media as were witnessed in the weeks preceding the imperialist assault on Libya.
Saturday 3 March saw the first AGM of the Stop the War Coalition (StW) since its leaders had rescinded the affiliation of the CPGB-ML (let’s just call it what it was, an expulsion) by email on 23 September 2011 with the following message:
“I regret to inform you that Stop the War Coalition’s officers group today decided to reject the affiliation of the CPGB-ML. We have therefore refunded your recent card payment for the affiliation fee. This decision has been taken due to the fact that the CPGB-ML has been publicly attacking Stop the War Coalition in its publications. Kind Regards, Stop the War.”
Our party has been affiliated to StW ever since we formed seven years ago, so the rejection of our annual affiliation payment was a particularly shabby and undemocratic way of excluding us. But given that the leadership of StW is an unprincipled lash-up of social democrats, Trotskyists and revisionists, such underhand methods are par for the course.
Of course, we replied to this email, stating that there were no grounds for expulsion and that the self-appointed ‘officers group’ had no power to expel us either. Our reply was ignored.
The ‘attacks’ that the leadership claims were made by us on StW were real enough, but they were political criticisms of the leadership of StW, and at no time has anyone pointed out to us where it is written in Stop the War’s aims and objectives that such criticism is not allowed. As to the substance of the criticism, we did no more than our duty to the movement in pointing out that StW leaders had supported Nato’s propaganda war against the Libyan people and their government, and thus aided a criminal and unprovoked assault against a sovereign nation.
Aiding and abetting the destruction of Libya
At a time when the imperialist powers were finalising their plans for the barbarous attack on Libya, and throwing every possible support to their unpopular puppets in the ‘Transitional National Council’; at a time when the imperialist media was spewing forth wall-to-wall saturation propaganda aimed at demonising the Libyan government and preparing the populations of Britain, France and the US for another ‘righteous’, ‘humanitarian’ war, the leadership of StW sprang into action and called a demonstration in London.
Quite right, one might think. Just the kind of thing a good anti-war movement should be doing. Except that StW convened its demonstration not outside Parliament, Downing Street or some other office of the warmongers, but outside the Libyan embassy, against the Libyan government and in support of imperialism’s TNC stooges in Benghazi.
The fact that StW’s leaders are claiming in retrospect to have been ‘even-handed’ and only interested in convincing ‘our government’ not to bomb Libya is made a mockery of by that action. At the very moment that imperialism was trying to justify a war of brigandage, the leadership of StW helped things along by presenting the British people with an ‘across the board’ condemnation of the intended victim!
Whether or not all those who made this decision and carried it out had the intention of serving the imperialist cause is immaterial. In politics, where the lives of hundreds of thousands of people can hang in the balance, only the result of an action is relevant – and the result of the StW demonstration (the only demonstration that the coalition called in regard to Libya, even after the bombs were raining down on the Libyan people) was to support imperialism’s stated reasons for its dirty war and thus undermine opposition to the war among the British people. And that, whether intentional or not, makes the leaders of the coalition guilty of pro-imperialism.
This political characterisation of StW’s actions is an accurate one, and it must be made and understood if such a deadly mistake is to be corrected rather than repeated.
However belatedly, the mistake could still be corrected if StW was to clearly denounce not only the Nato imperialist puppet-masters, who have planned and directed the whole criminal destruction of Libya, but also their mercenary gangster puppets, who are currently rampaging through the country, lynching and ethnically cleansing black people in an orgy of racist violence, as well as targeting all those known to be loyal to the old government.
It might be too late to mobilise the British people to stop Britain’s forces taking part in the rape of Libya, but it is not too late to pull Britain out of the unholy alliance propping up the unpopular TNC. Nor is it too late to give support to the real representatives of the Libyan people – the Green fighters who are currently regrouping to defend their countrymen and resist the fascistic forces unleashed by Nato.
Aiding and abetting the war against Syria
Meanwhile, equally crucially, the anti-war movement must not allow the same mistake to be made in relation to imperialism’s next intended victim – Syria.
And yet, despite all the costly lessons that Libya could and should have taught StW’s leaders, we are once again seeing that, just as the British people are being bombarded with wall-to-wall propaganda lies that are aimed at demonising the Syrian government and justifying a full-scale war against the country, StW leaders are lining up … to denounce the Syrian government!
At last weekend’s annual conference, despite paying lip-service to the principle that the Syrian people should be free to determine their own future without outside interference, the self-styled ‘officers group’ members took it in turns to emphasise how much they personally deplored the ‘brutality’ of the ‘dictator’ Assad, who was ‘murdering his own people’ etc.
It’s a nasty trick: on the one hand pretend to care about the fate of Syrian people, while on the other you make sure that imperialism’s lies are reinforced, thus giving a helping hand to the imperialist cause of destroying Syria as an independent nation.
The duplicity is quite subtle too. How many people in the hall spotted the incongruity between the position that ‘Syrians should be free to determine their own future’ and ‘We cannot possibly give any support to Assad’? For the great unspoken truth of the day was that the majority of Syrian people are firmly behind their government (a broad, secular, anti-imperialist, national-unity coalition, by the way, not a ‘family dictatorship’ or an ‘Alawite dynasty’).
They wish their leaders to continue with its policies of independent economic and political development; with its policy of support for Palestinian self-determination and opposition to Israeli war crimes and occupation. Indeed, many of the valid criticisms that Syrians have of their government concern recent compromises that have been made with western finance capital at the expense of ordinary people. What the vast majority of Syrians don’t want is a West-imposed coalition of free-market flunkies and religious fundamentalists.
So if Syrians support the Assad government, should we not support their right to support that government? And should we not support the Syrian government’s right to defend itself against attack by imperialist-created militias? Under the pretext of ‘allowing Syrians to chose’, StW’s leaders are in fact telling all those on the left who might think of publicly backing the Syrian government that they must keep their support to themselves.
And when ‘leftists’ like John Rees, who has used his Islam Channel TV show to give airtime to known MI5 agents such as the spokesman from the ‘Syrian Observatory for Human Rights’ in order that they can denounce the ‘human rights abuses’ of the Damascus government, are agreeing with Cameron and Hague that the Syrian government is an evil dictatorship hated by ordinary Syrians, who is to blame the majority of British people if they are left with the impression that there is no fundamental reason to object to Nato’s stated aim of ‘regime change’ in Syria?
No right of reply in StW’s ‘democratic’ ‘broad front’
With such critical political questions in need of serious consideration and debate, it was no wonder that the bureaucrats in charge of StW’s annual conference had come up with two new ways to keep dissent at bay. First, only those sent as official delegates from affiliated organisations or local branches were allowed to speak, while other StW members attending had only observer status. Straight away, this put our comrades at a disadvantage, since, of course, the CPGB-ML was not allowed to send any delegates or propose any motions.
Despite this, at the very start of the day’s business, comrades from the CPGB-ML raised a point of order and objected to the party’s unconstitutional expulsion from the coalition, arguing that we should have the right to hear any charges against us and put our case to the meeting before such an expulsion could be accepted as valid. In the chair, however, that oh-so-mild-mannered and liberal darling of ‘left’ Labour Jeremy Corbyn was having none of it.
He refused our comrades the right to be heard, or even to question this decision, and so began the first shouting match of the day. Pretty? No, but with little other choice open to us than that of meekly accepting the chair’s ruling, anyone who cares to think about it from our standpoint (having been both illegally expelled and denied the right to question that expulsion) might accept that they may well have done something similar.
Having seen to it that most of the meeting had no idea what the fuss was about, the chair took a vote of the assembled delegates, who came down overwhelmingly in favour of giving us no chance to question our expulsion, or, equally importantly, to question the reasons for that expulsion. We were, however, given an assurance that we would be able to put our case when the subject was raised under proposition 16 on the agenda. This motion had been put forward by a hostile organisation, the CPGB Weekly Worker, but it did call for the reinstatement of our affiliation, so we accepted the assurance and retired from the fray.
The second, procedural manoeuvre was then sprung on the conference as a fait accompli, presented by Corbyn as a way to “get through the agenda”: only one person would be allowed to speak for or against each motion (and this despite the fact that delegates had been encouraged to put their names down on a list if there was a motion they wanted to speak to).
In practice, what this meant was that a whole lot of uncontroversial and very similar motions went through on the nod, with each speaker in favour making the same points and no-one speaking against them, while those motions that were controversial were rushed through with no debate allowed: the mover got their allocated four minutes, the leadership opposed and a vote was taken, with no further discussion and not even a right of reply against any slanderous or spurious argument the leadership might have chosen to put forward.
Seeing where this was leading, one comrade, during the break, sought a guarantee from the chair that a. proposition 16 would definitely be taken and not ‘accidentally’ fall off the agenda, and that b. our comrades would be guaranteed the right to put their own case for four minutes, rather than having to rely on the mover of the motion. The guarantee on the first point was given but only a commitment to “bear that in mind” was given on the second point.
Given the open manoeuvring to make sure that the reasons for our expulsion were not discussed, it was clear that there was no hope of a ‘peaceful’ settlement, despite the fact that another comrade had approached the Arrangements Committee and been promised that her name would be at the top of the list for speaking to proposition 16.
Early in the afternoon, during a ‘general discussion’ on organisation, one of our comrades did manage to force her way onto the list of speakers, and used her three minutes at the microphone to remind delegates of the need to work actively inside the trade unions in order to mobilise workers in relevant industries to organise collective action that could stop the imperialist war machine.
Every one of us has a duty to do what we can to prevent our country taking part in illegal wars of aggression, said our comrade. Individually we might be weak, but together we do have the power to change things. If British workers refused en masse to produce weapons, to serve in the forces, to transport the materials or to write or broadcast the propaganda needed to wage these wars, then the British ruling class would be forced to pull out of them, she reminded the delegates – and this speech was received with great applause.
The comrade also reminded those present that this most effective type of anti-war action (as opposed to the ‘keeping people busy’ activity such as petitions and lobbies of MPs favoured by StW’s leaders) was already official coalition policy, since CPGB-ML motions on active non-cooperation had been overwhelmingly adopted by conference at the last two annual conferences, but had never yet been implemented. [link here]
Finally, right at the end of the day, and with the assembly much depleted, came proposition 16. The CPGB Weekly Worker mover naturally focused on explaining why she thought her party’s front organisation Hands Off the People of Iran (HOPI) should be allowed to affiliate. She also spent considerable time pointing out her organisation’s disagreements with ours, which was just as well, since we would have hated anyone to think that we held many of the Trotskyist positions she put forward.
Once her four minutes were up, it was over to Lindsey German to oppose the motion. In her contribution she made reference to the last email that she had sent us following our positive reply to a letter the StW office sent us asking us to affiliate. Judging by her response, that affiliation reminder email was sent in error. The email we received from her on 27 February, just five days before the AGM, read as follows:
“Thank you for your request for affiliation. As you are aware, the officers felt that your reported recent characterisation of some of them, including our chair Jeremy Corbyn, as ‘pro-imperialists’ or ‘traitors’ was unacceptable from an affiliated organisation. We understand that sometimes debate on issues becomes heated, but feel that we could only consider affiliating you if there were assurances that you would not make such remarks in the future. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you wish to discuss this further. Best wishes, Lindsey German.”
From the podium, German again insisted that the problem was one of ‘unacceptable language’. But the idea that dear St Jeremy is so thin skinned that he needs cushioning from our upsetting accusations is ludicrous in the extreme. This is a man who tells us that he is a socialist, but who has no qualms about getting his pay cheque from serving a party that is drenched in the blood of innocents.
The Labour party that Corbyn is so loyal to has never yet refused to give full support to one of British imperialism’s wars, whether in or out of government. Indeed, the last Labour government was exceptionally active in galvanising support for Nato’s aggressive wars of destruction against Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Somalia and Iraq. To remain loyal to such a party is hardly a vocation for the thin-skinned.
Ms German’s performance over, Saint Jeremy moved to the vote, whereupon our comrades once more objected in a very noisy and animated fashion, and it was during this justified uproar that the honourable StW chairman proposed and took a vote denying us the right to speak in our own defence. And he was shamefully supported in this action by George Galloway, who had apparently forgotten that even the Labour party gave him a hearing before kicking him out!
Thus it was that the ‘democrats’ who make up the leadership of StW, who cannot refrain from condemning real anti-imperialist fighters like Colonel Gaddafi and President Assad at any and every opportunity on the grounds that these ‘dictators’ are alleged not to let their people have any say in their country’s affairs, showed that they are not averse to practicing a bit of dictatorship themselves when it serves their agenda.
Meanwhile, whatever the bureaucratic manoeuvrings of Corbyn and co, the struggle against imperialism goes on. While the Trotskyists, revisionists and social democrats that pass as the great and the good of StW drag the coalition further into the gutter, shedding ever-more members as they go, our party will continue to act as a pole of attraction for all those who are serious about destroying British monopoly capitalism’s choke-hold on workers all over the globe, and we will continue to hold out the hand of internationalist solidarity to all those in struggle against British imperialism.
The video below is taken from a meeting of anti-war activists in Birmingham and shows Comrade Harpal Brar talking about the role of the Labour party in stifling the anti-war movement’s ability to actually stop war.