StW conference: what we were not allowed to say in answer to our expulsion
Contrary to the most elementary principles of natural justice and democracy, CPGB-ML was refused the right to defend itself against its illegal and arbitrary expulsion from the Stop the War Coalition at the recent StW national conference. This many people found shocking, as indeed it is, coming as it does from people who arrogate themselves the right to condemn governments under attack from imperialism for being ‘dictatorial’ and ‘repressive’ whenever they take any action to defend their country and their people from imperialist takeover.
Given the expectation at the meeting that speakers had only four minutes to make their contribution, the following is what our representative would have said had we been granted the most elementary democratic right.
Clearly we were in no position to refute the stream of lies issuing from the mouth of Lindsey German, many of which we heard for the first time that day, but it was the effectiveness of our criticism of the policies of the Stop the War leadership that were the real reason for our expulsion, so we addressed ourselves to this point. We will leave it to the reader to judge whether the leadership of Stop the War really needed to be so frightened of allowing us to speak!
We apologise to those here who thought our protests this morning at not being allowed to defend ourselves against expulsion were unreasonable, but we invite you to consider what you would have done in our shoes – illegally and unconstitutionally expelled, with absolutely no right to appeal to the general meeting or indeed any independent entity. The blame should not be put on the victim, but on the tin-pot dictators who see fit to deprive people of their right to speak in their own defence.
We would like to press on this meeting the importance of defending the rights of the minority within an organisation to hold views contrary to those of the majority (or the controlling faction) and also to express them. That is the essence, surely, of democracy. We criticised the leadership for taking a stance on the question of Libya, now being repeated in the case of Syria, which we consider to be extremely harmful to the central aim of Stop the War – namely, to oppose all imperialist warmongering.
The error of the leadership was, while claiming to oppose imperialist war, to express support for imperialist-financed opponents of the anti-imperialist regimes that the imperialist warmongers and aggressors are targeting.
For at least a decade, the various western imperialist powers have been preparing to replace or overthrow all independently-minded governments in oil producing/transporting countries that believe the proceeds of sale of their country’s oil should first and foremost benefit their own countries’ peoples. Preparation for replacing these governments takes the form of endless propaganda against them in the bourgeois media, as well as the financing and equipping of an internal opposition pledged to serve imperialist interests.
Iran, Somalia, Lebanon and Syria, for instance are all under this kind of attack, following the precedent set in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. In the case of Libya, the Stop the War leadership – John Rees especially – set out to parrot all the imperialist lies concerning the government of Colonel Gaddafi, and at one point actually led a protest demonstration to the Libyan embassy. And today in this room several speakers have repeated imperialist lies about the government of Syria, without anybody from among the leadership expressing the slightest disagreement. Yes, a resolution that attacked the Iranian government was opposed, but only as a means of creating the illusion that the leadership ‘does not take sides’ in the conflict.
Actually, its failure to counter imperialist propaganda against target countries shows that it does take sides – it takes the imperialist side! The worst thing is that precisely because the Stop the War leadership appears to have genuine anti-war and anti-imperialist credentials, its silence (at best!) in the face of propaganda against those governments under attack from imperialism actually helps to validate that propaganda in the eyes of progressive people who would never believe such lies if they emanated solely from the Sun, the Daily Express and the BBC.
It is noticeable in today’s conference that there is a strange imbalance in the resolutions. As one speaker pointed out, the military intervention in Syria has already begun, albeit in a covert manner. Yet Syria has been hardly mentioned, except here and there by people who hasten to decry its government as brutal and dictatorial. The speaker who urged that action to defend Syria should as a matter of urgency be given a much higher profile was greeted without any enthusiasm from the platform, and an officer in the audience was heard to say that the speaker ought to be shut up.
The net effect is that Stop the War is being used as a platform for spreading pro-imperialist propaganda, and legitimising imperialism’s ‘justification’ for its military interventions, all while purporting to work against war! Frankly, the Syrian government is a lot less dictatorial, repressive or brutal than either Blair’s was or Cameron’s is.
Maybe people do not agree with our analysis of the situation, even though time has shown in Libya’s case the true nature of the ‘freedom fighters’ who so inspired the Stop the War leadership’s enthusiasm in the run-up to imperialist intervention. We should, however, have the right to express these views.
One assumes that Jeremy Corbyn expresses his disagreement with the policies of the Labour party leadership, and in forceful terms, yet he is not expelled from the Labour party. How come he is so keen on getting rid of opposition within Stop the War, which is not even a political party, whose members might legitimately be expected to defend its policies, but merely a broad organisation of people of very many differing views who seek to oppose war?
There is no basis for expelling us. We have not broken any rules of the organisation, and the organisation does not even have a constitutional mechanism for expelling anyone. That people who have been criticised should be judge and jury as far as expelling their opponents is concerned is simply outrageous in the extreme and should not be tolerated.