BUAFS banner in Trafalgar Square on May Day 2015
A comrade from Bristol Ukraine Anti Fascist Solidarity (BUAFS) was invited to speak at a recent public meeting in London organised by Solidarity with the Antifascist Resistance in the Ukraine (SARU). We reproduce his remarks below.
We are talking today specifically about the way that the imperialist media serve a vital propaganda role in selling us their agenda of war and austerity. Other speakers have given many telling examples of this manipulation of public opinion.
In Bristol, we try to expose this manipulation by mounting a weekly picket of the BBC in Whiteladies Road. We do this to draw attention to the lies the corporation tells about the conflict in the Ukraine and Donbass, and to point out how this conflicts with the vaunted status of the BBC as a paragon of ‘objective’ and ‘balanced’ journalism. It lays claim to that status, so it’s right that we should demand that it be held to account for failing to live up to it.
However, in reality, we should not be so surprised about the BBC’s behaviour. Its journalists are just doing their job, serving as part of the propaganda machine for the imperialist ruling class. When push comes to shove, that is the basic purpose of every organ of mass media in imperialist society. How could it be other? The capitalist media are bought and paid for, and capitalism gets what it pays for. In that sense, we have nothing to complain about.
But if the real function of the BBC and the rest is not too hard to grasp, what have we to say about the role of some of those in ‘left’, ‘anti-war’ and trade-union circles who help to grease the wheels for war by going along with the reactionary propaganda? I’m thinking about those who in words ‘opposed’ the bombing of Libya, yet rowed in with all the vilification of Muammar Gaddafi by which imperialism sought to justify that bombing.
Or those who went along with the hate campaign against Bashar al-Assad and the progressive leadership of Syria – a hate campaign that acted as a smokescreen for the West’s proxy war of subversion against
an independent Arab state whose secular and progressive character posed a threat to imperialist dominance in the Middle East.
What do we make of those who peer down from a great height upon the inhabitants of the Donbass fighting for their lives against Kiev’s stormtroopers, only to pronounce them to be ‘Putin’s useful idiots’?
In my innocence, I had hoped to come here tonight in a cloud of glory, bearing glad tidings that Bristol Trades Council had decided to cough up £50 and affiliate to SARU. The Bristol branch of Community Unite earlier this year passed a resolution to affiliate, and went on to propose to the trades council that it follow suit.
Sadly, this initiative was ambushed by some very vocal delegates to the trades council, who ‘explained’ that the fascist coup that removed the democratically-elected Yanukovych government was in fact a “popular uprising”, that the subsequent elevation of Poroshenko to the presidency was “legitimate”, that his government was not fascist, that the Donbass resistance were no more than stooges for Putin and that the conflict in the Ukraine was not about anti-fascist resistance but was essentially a turf war between rival oligarchs.
To make this unashamed rehearsal of the standard BBC/Fox News Big Lie more palatable to a trade-union forum, matters were given a workerist twist, appealing for “solidarity with workers throughout the whole of the Ukraine”, carefully ignoring the fact that the fascist aggression dished out by the Kiev junta’s forces is actually the military wing of the IMF-imposed austerity being imposed on all Ukrainian workers.
This stunt recalls the dishonest ‘neither green nor orange’ pose that was assumed in the 1970s and 80s by those who sought to justify their enmity towards the Irish national struggle by making spurious appeals to the “unity of all workers” (all workers, that is, in ‘Northern Ireland’ – ie, the colonised six counties).
Regrettably, these lies about what is really going on in the Ukraine were enough to stampede the trades council away from supporting the resolution, which was formally remitted (kicked into the long grass). Fifty pounds here or there will not break our campaign, but this setback usefully illustrates just how crucial is the role of social democracy in making workers vulnerable to capitalist war propaganda, softening up our resistance.
It is important to challenge the media lies. But it is at least as important to challenge those on the social-democratic ‘left’ who help to give those lies currency in the working class. We can’t get rid of media lies, but we can make a start on challenging the social-democratic politics that rob workers of any ideological defence against those lies.
When the manufactured paranoia about Russia has been so eagerly embraced by many on the ‘left’, for example, it will take no more than one or two well-orchestrated false-flag operations for war fever to sweep the board.
What is the antidote to this war fever? The short answer is: to build an anti-war movement in the working class; a movement that identifies imperialist crisis as the driver of war, which supports all those engaged in resistance against imperialism and which leads a campaign of active non-cooperation with the war effort.
Do we possess such a movement now? Sadly not. The Stop the War Coalition, in the name of ‘broadening the appeal’ of the movement, withheld its support from the Afghan resistance and the Iraqi resistance. It likewise withheld support from the progressive governments of Gaddafi’s Libya and Assad’s Syria. Now it opposes the Russian bombing campaign against Islamic State in Syria.
And, of course, it withholds support from the Donbass resistance – always in the name of ‘broadening the movement’. Yet, far from ‘broadening’ the anti-war movement into the mass of the working class, this approach has narrowed the movement to a dwindling support base consisting mostly of a pacifist-minded middle class.
Our task must be to break down the social-democratic walls that separate workers in Britain from all their oppressed brothers and sisters who are fighting against imperialism – be it in Palestine, Syria, the Donbass or wherever.
The imperialist ruling class that plunges one country after another into war is the self-same imperialist ruling class that imposes austerity at home. By recognising that imperialism is our common enemy and linking arms with those engaged in resistance against imperialist meddling, we can unite in an anti-war movement that stands on solid anti-imperialist foundations.
I believe that this can be done in Britain, and that our support for the struggles of the people’s republics of Donetsk and Lugansk could be a step in the right direction.
It is in that spirit that we continue our solidarity work in Bristol. Let me take this opportunity to invite comrades to come and visit our picket outside the BBC in Whiteladies Road, every Monday from 5.00pm to 6.30pm.
Also, let me remind you about the public meeting we are holding on Saturday 24 October in the Terrace Room of Barton Hill Community Settlement, 43 Ducie Road, Bristol (BS5 0AX), from 2.00pm to 5.00pm, on the subject of imperialist crisis and the drive to war in Europe.
US soldiers protesting military strikes against Syria are taking to Facebook to voice their opposition to a war.
With the ruling class split over the ‘wisdom’ of an all-out attack on Syria (ie, some of our rulers have realised that imperialism might not win and that more war might just be counterproductive at home), more and more evidence is filtering through from marginalised ‘alternative’ media sources into the public eye.
Here are just a few of the articles currently circulating that together confirm what communists and anti-imperialists have said all along: that it is the Nato imperialists who are perpetrating illegal massacres and deliberately stoking up a sectarian and potentially genocidal war in Syria, and that the Syrian government and army are waging a heroic battle for national liberation from this fascistic neo-colonial onslaught.
The job of all anti-war, anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist and progressive people is to show the British working class that they have the power to stop the war criminals in their tracks. The corporate media, the munitions industry, the transporting and logistics as well as the forces themselves are all operated by workers. If we don’t do the work, these criminal wars cannot be fought!
‘Doctors’ behind Syrian chemical weapons claims are aiding terrorists (Land Destroyer Report)
Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières) is fully funded by the very same corporate financier interests behind Wall Street and London’s collective foreign policy, including regime change in Syria and neighbouring Iran. Doctors Without Borders’ own annual report includes as financial donors Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, Google, Microsoft, Bloomberg, Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital, and a myriad of other corporate-financier interests.
Syria: The questions that must be answered before any aggression (Dissident Voice)
Why do you not explain to your citizens that President Assad has the support of the vast majority of the population of his country and would you please draw up a list of the popularity ratings of the 30-odd terrorist/opposition groups fighting against the State?
US planned Syrian civilian catastrophe since 2007 (Press TV)
While the UN and nations across the West feign shock over the growing humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in and around Syria, the goal of a violent sectarian conflict and its predictable, catastrophic results along with calls to literally ‘bleed’ Syria have been the underlying strategy of special interests in the United States, Israel, Saudi Arabia and their regional partners since at least 2007.
News of chemical weapons attack in Syria published one day before massacre happened (Voice of Russia)
This evidence shows that the terrorists massacred people then recorded the scenes to deceive the world.
‘Rebels’ admit responsibility for chemical weapons attack (Info Wars)
Syrian ‘rebels’ in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta have admitted to Associated Press correspondent Dale Gavlak that they were responsible for last week’s chemical weapons incident which western powers have blamed on Bashar al-Assad’s forces, revealing that the casualties were the result of an accident caused by rebels mishandling chemical weapons provided to them by Saudi Arabia.
Syria (In Gaza)
What a potential bloody ‘humanitarian’, ‘right-to-protect’ (right to bomb and pillage) intervention will do is rape yet another country of everything, including its culture, history, identity, and of course people … and further colonial interests and power in the region of Syria, Palestine, Lebanon … and on to Iran.
The American people have spoken: calls to Congress 499 to 1 against Syria war (Global Research)
Americans are slamming at least 24 members of Congress with thousands of phone calls and emails, urging lawmakers not to approve a military strike on Syria.
Russia releases key findings on chemical attack near Aleppo indicating similarity with rebel-made weapons (RT)
Russia’s foreign ministry has criticised the “flawed selective approach” of certain states in reporting the recent incidents of alleged chemical weapons use in August. The hype around the alleged attack on the eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta showed “apparent attempts to cast a veil over the incidents of gas poisoning of Syrian army soldiers on 22, 24 and 25 August,” the ministry said, adding that all the respective evidence was handed to the UN by Syria.
Five things anti-war activists should know about Syria (FightBack! News)
The notion that there is a ‘red line’ that no one is allowed to cross is cynical at the core. Iraq is saturated with cancer-causing depleted uranium from US bombs. The US military used the chemical weapon white phosphorus in Fallujah and Israel used white phosphorus in Gaza in a manner that violates the Geneva Convention. Chemical weapons are a pretext to do what the US government, weapons manufacturers, Israel, and the Saudi ruling class wants to do - bomb Syria.
While Syria doesn’t have much oil, there is a whole lot of it in the neighbourhood. The conflict in Syria has been ongoing because it is being used as a geopolitical chess piece by the West. The point of the attack is to defeat Syria so the US can next move onto Iran and strike at other forces that are opposed to US domination.
Syria’s real ‘crime’ is to remain independent, ignoring the agenda of US empire in the Middle East and befriending the patriotic peoples of Iran, Lebanon and Palestine. The US speaks of chemical weapons, hoping that we have forgotten their plan for ‘regime change’ in Syria. The US government has no right to determine who should lead the Syrian government.
The opening paragraph of Stop the War’s latest email to members in Bristol ploughs a familiar furrow:
Yesterday’s vote in parliament is welcome. MPs reflected the majority view in the country and rejected the government’s plans to join an attack on Syria. It represented the victory of mass anti-war opinion over the interests of the UK elite that has been enthusiastically participating in US-led wars over the last decade and more.
There can be no doubt that the hundreds of demonstrations, protests, rallies and pickets of the last twelve years have been central to bringing the war makers low and making it impossible for Cameron to join in another catastrophic attack.
But we need to resist such mutual congratulation over the alleged effectiveness of ten years of rudderless protest and remind ourselves of a few salient facts.
1. The vote at Westminster was indeed a breathtaking upset for British imperialism, reflecting as it did the panic and disarray of our masters faced with a choice between drinking poison (plunging into another Iraq or Afghanistan) or dying of thirst (seeing US hegemony crumble).
It is the severity of the crisis and the steadfastness of Syria and the axis of resistance that combined to divide and weaken imperialism, not the feeble nonentities at the helm of the anti-war movement.
2. Open war against Syria is most likely still on the agenda anyway. Labour complains that war against Syria is being prepared “in a rush”, just as it used to complain that the cuts were happening “too fast”. Slacken the timetable a little and the objections melt away.
Labour complains only that the UN inspectors need more time, with the unstated corollary that an adverse report would legitimise missile strikes. All Miliband’s posturing amounts to is the demand for a bigger fig leaf to cover this criminal enterprise.
3. Under imperialism, though any given war may not itself be inevitable, war in general most certainly is, and the more urgently so as the capitalist crisis deepens.
Workers don’t need to be hearing right now that parliamentary democracy has proved itself a reliable bulwark against militarism. Least of all do they need to be hearing that Labour (or Labour ‘lefts’, or an anti-war movement dominated by social democracy) is going to deliver “peace in our time”.
4. We congratulate the government and people of Syria whose steadfast resistance to imperialist subversion has weakened and divided their enemies.
And we affirm again that it is by giving consistent support to the resistance forces and organising workers behind a campaign of practical non-cooperation with imperialist war crimes that a serious anti-war movement can and must be built.
The author of the statement below is a former Second Class Petty Officer in the US Navy (2007-2012) who served on the USS Fitzgerald and the USS The Sullivans. He now helps to organise anti-war actions in Los Angeles.
To my fellow sailors, shipmates and service members on active duty,
Many of you are now in the Mediterranean Sea near Syria to be used to carry out strikes against the country. Ninety-one percent of the American public opposes these strikes. The Obama administration has failed to produce the ‘evidence’ it says would justify them.
Do not be fooled into yet another war based on lies in the Middle East. The events that came to pass in Iraq and Afghanistan go to show that “defending freedom and democracy around the world“, as the Sailor’s Creed so wrongfully suggests, is just a scheme to defend the interests of the rich at our expense. Syria – which is the only remaining country in the Arab world that is independent of Wall Street – is a huge prize for the oil and defence industries. But the billionaires who will profit don’t send their own children. They send us.
What we learned from the Iraq war in particular is that the US government will fabricate intelligence, lies to our faces, and create a false story about ‘protecting civilians’ to cover up their true motives.
Don’t be a part of a war machine that kills innocent lives and separates entire families. Tomahawks and MK45 rounds kill indiscriminately.
Do not be fooled into yet another endless watch, duty day, sleepless night and deployment in support of a corrupt system that constantly puts you in harm’s way. I ask you, is it really worth it?
I enlisted on 20 July 2007, right out of high school, in the hopes that I could persue an education and travel the world through the Navy. The longer I was in, the more I realised that the community I was exposed to in the Navy was so far removed from the everyday lives of American civilians.
Military spending always goes up. I was surrounded by billions of dollars’ worth of equipment, while schools have to fundraise for supplies and scholarships, whole cities were going bankrupt, and students struggled to pay their loans.
I realised then that the system in place had left me no choice but to join the military. It was an illusion of choice when the reality is that more and more of us join to escape economic hardship. Then we are used to carry out missile strikes against other struggling people just like us all over the globe. It is a cycle that continues to fuel the war machine.
To me, patriotism is doing what you think is right for your country, not blindly following its government. It means that when we receive orders from corrupt high-ranking officers to launch strikes against Syria, against the will of the American people and against the will of the Syrian people, that it is our duty to refuse to carry them out.
Getting out of the military was the best decision I ever made, because the military tried to make me into a tool of oppression for other people around the world – but failed.
If I were at sea now, ordered to carry out this new war, I would refuse. You can too. Disobey the bogus orders to launch a new war. Refuse deployments and reenlistments. Come home to your families and fight the real battle that has been waged by the government against its own people in the form of unemployment, poor education, high interest rates for college students, police brutality and the erosion of our civil liberties.
30 August 2013
Act together to stop war … Join the axis of resistance!
This motion was passed overwhelmingly at the recent CPGB-ML party congress
This congress confirms that opposing imperialism’s murderous and barbaric wars for profit and plunder is an integral and essential part of the fight against capitalist imperialism, and must be a major priority for communists living in imperialist countries such as Britain.
Congress notes that, following the illegal expulsion of our party from the Stop the War coalition (StW) in March, members have been giving serious thought to what the main thrust of our party’s anti-war work should be.
Congress welcomes the contribution made to this discussion by the CC in its anti-war policy briefing document, which was issued in June, and fully endorses that document’s contents.
Congress recommends that all members and study groups who have not yet done so should read this document, discuss its contents and consider how best to advance the party’s anti-war programme in their local area or region.
This congress believes that the leaders of StW, far from being a force for anti-imperialist unity, are a major obstacle to achieving such unity, since they do not act to unite workers against imperialism, but instead work to unify anti-war activists with the imperialist Labour party. By continually bowing to the wishes and enhancing the prestige of ‘left’-Labour MPs and trade unionists, StW’s leaders are in fact making the anti-war movement subservient to the interests of the imperialist Labour party, which means, ultimately, that they are putting the movement under the control of the very class that is waging these criminal wars. This has been amply illustrated by the complete inability of StW either to seriously challenge the bourgeois propaganda onslaught against Libya and Syria or to offer any meaningful support to either of those countries in their desperate struggles to defend their independence.
Congress further believes that until all honest anti-war activists reject the pro-imperialist politics of such leaders, their activities, however sincerely undertaken, will continue to be completely harmless to imperialism and will continue to have absolutely no effect on the course of imperialist war.
Congress reaffirms its belief that our party’s two main anti-war slogans (‘Victory to the resistance’ and ‘No cooperation with war crimes’) are still the only correct ones.
Congress further reaffirms its intention to work towards a time when the party is able to found a truly anti-imperialist anti-war movement in Britain.
Congress therefore instructs all branches and members to do whatever they can to:
- promote awareness and recognition of the party’s anti-war slogans, bringing them to life by popularising their true content among as broad a section of workers as possible and infusing them with the spirit of anti-imperialist unity.
- bring closer the founding of a new anti-imperialist front by putting into action the six tasks laid out in the CC’s anti-war policy briefing document, chief among which is to keep building the party and transforming our new members into seasoned and professional cadres who are able to spread our party’s influence amongst the working class.
- carry on with the work of exposing the treachery of StW’s leaders and of bringing to British workers an understanding of the urgent need to break with their class enemies in the Labour party, while helping them to unify instead with all those forces that are fighting against imperialist war and occupation abroad.
- keep pushing the line of non-cooperation, bringing to workers’ attention the fact that we really do have the collective power to put a stop to imperialist war and encouraging them to work to transform their unions into fighting organisations that are prepared to adopt non-cooperation policies and to put them into action.
Record numbers turn out to vote and show their support for President Bashar Al Assad and his government. Damascus, 26 February 2012
Download this article as a statement
By attempting to unconstitutionally rescind CPGB-ML’s affiliation to the Stop the War coalition, StW ‘leaders’ are behaving in a criminally sectarian and cowardly manner.
Cowardly, because the Labour party, Counterfire and CPB leaders who dominate our coalition’s executive seek, by unconstitutionally expelling the CPGB-ML, to silence criticism and avoid having their failed policies on Libya in particular, and lack of consistent anti-imperialism more generally, scrutinised and overturned.
They seek to avoid answering to the coalition’s membership and having the truth behind these failures exposed: that their cosy relations with ‘left Labour’ (German-Benn, Murray-Corbyn, etc) and their personal political stock-in-trade are more dear to them than the stated aims of the StW coalition they purport to uphold.
That is why, at the crucial moment, rather than leading British workers to oppose Nato’s genocide in Libya, their personally cherished ideas and relations led StW to parrot the predatory propaganda of British imperialism, which was hell-bent on waging war upon Libya and the devastating this beautiful, historic, cultured and formerly most prosperous sovereign African nation – all in pursuit of Nato’s strategy of capital aggrandisement, regional and world domination.
All of which begs the question: can an anti-war movement be effectively led by members and supporters of a party that condones and conducts those wars?
Libya – a betrayal
Throughout the Libyan crisis, the conduct of the Stop the War Coalition was shameful, bringing us nothing but ignominy in the eyes of the world’s oppressed and struggling masses.
Prior to Nato’s bombardment, when US/British/French intervention was a little less blatant (very much in the vein of its current plot against Syria), conducted via MI6, CIA and other covert operatives, and through the funding of motley feudal and criminal elements, StW organised a demonstration. But this ‘anti-war’ demonstration was not against imperialism and its mercenaries in Benghazi, but against the Gaddafi government!
Owen Jones wrote on the StW website: “Let’s be clear. Other than a few nutters, we all want Gaddafi overthrown, dead or alive. In both his anti-western and pro-western incarnations, his record is that of a brutal and unquestionably slightly unhinged dictator. I will not caricature supporters of the bombing campaign as frothing-at-the-mouth neocons.”
Andrew Murray, wrote in the Morning Star, while Nato’s blitzkrieg was underway, that “it is wrong to assert that the rebellion based in Benghazi was some sort of pro-imperialist plot from the outset”.
Is that so?
CPGB-ML, a member of the Stop the War Coalition since its inception, did not fall for this pro-imperialist whitewash, and on 11 March 2011 we issued a leaflet calling for the defence of Libya and its government. This was a principled and coherent anti-imperialist stance, which has stood the test of time. We are proud to have promoted it, among British workers and activists – including those of the StW coalition – as part of our activity to oppose illegal and genocidal Nato wars, in Libya and elsewhere.
The text of our March 2011 ‘Hands off Libya! victory to Gaddafi!’ statement is freely available.
Further, in August 2011, we issued a leaflet calling on workers to “support the resistance” and “denounce StW treachery”.
It contained the following – remarkably restrained – criticism of StW’s position:
“Some people and organisations, such as Stop the War, have been bamboozled by the non-stop and ubiquitous Goebbelsian propaganda that has spewed forth from the imperialist media ever since Gaddafi’s regime was put in place into believing that he is some kind of a monster who must be overthrown at all costs. In view of his record in defending the interests of the Libyan people, such an approach is absurd.
“Stop the War, dominated as it is by organisations that devote themselves to spreading illusions in social democracy (ie, futile hopes that solutions for the working class and oppressed people are to be found within capitalism), still finds itself cheerleading for Gaddafi’s opponents: their only reason for opposing imperialist military intervention is that it may be harmful to the cause of imperialism’s local agents in Libya!
“Down with social-democratic treachery; down with imperialism!”
John Rees and the ‘Don’t Mention the War’ campaign
With the lack of political will to defend Libya from imperialist attack, there was a corresponding dearth of activity on the ground. What happened to ‘our’ alleged ability to mobilise 2-million-strong marches, like the one held in February 2003 before the invasion of Iraq, which is so often cited and trumpeted? This kind of capitulation before the Nato juggernaut has made us an increasing irrelevance to British workers.
As tomahawk cruise missiles, bunker busters, white phosphorous and depleted uranium rained down on Libya, pulverising Tripoli and Sirte, targeting all progressive Libyans, and in particular Col Muammar Gaddafi – whose infant grandchildren were among the early victims of Nato’s dark forces – John Rees apparently felt no shame, declaring (in a similar vein to Liam Fox and William Hague) on a YouTube interview that “nobody is going to shed a tear for the fall of this brutal dictator [Gaddafi]”.
He further advised the quisling ‘Transitional National Council’ (in reality a front for Trans-National Corporations) to gain credibility by “telling the major powers where to get off” – ie, to adopt his own tactic of dressing up an imperialist campaign in ‘anti-imperialist’ colours. No doubt this would have been convenient for Rees, but the heartless clerics had another agenda.
During the bombing campaign, StW leadership belatedly declared its half-hearted opposition to the imperialist bombing campaign – not because they disagreed with Nato’s aims, but because it believed their methods were not effective enough. Bombing, they said, “would merely serve to bolster Gaddafi’s position, and thus undermine the cause of the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime” – which principle aim of imperialism in Libya, ‘Stop the War’ leaders continued to cherish and support.
We published a statement on 8 September, pointing out that with ‘anti-war friends’ like these, the Libyan people might well ask, ‘Who needs enemies?’
StW leaders – as the 2012 national conference agenda attests – barely make reference to their betrayal of Libya, as despite some mild queasiness and reservations they remain broadly in support of Gaddafi’s lynching.
Nor is the struggle in Libya – like the struggle in Iraq – over. Resistance is regrouping, even after the wholesale slaughter of the flower of Libya’s anti-imperialist leadership. The Green flag has been raised in Bani Walid, Tripoli, Sirte and elsewhere – long after Hilary Clinton stopped cackling with glee over the gruesome imagery of Gaddafi’s murder.
For while the feudal thugs of Nato’s TNC run amok in Libya, committing mass violations of its citizens’ rights, including (among other things) kidnapping, raping and murdering Libyan women, and lynching anyone with black skin, while helping Nato bandits to help themselves to Libya’s oil and financial wealth, there can be no peace.
Let us all reflect – if there was previously any room for doubt – that these are not the actions of a popular-democratic revolution, but the pogroms of a decaying, imperialist-backed feudal movement attempting to divide and destroy the unity and progressive sentiment built over 40 years among the formerly free Libyan people. Their gains can only be temporary; their ultimate defeat is certain.
Genocide and ethnic cleansing have been perpetrated, a nation stolen, its resources subsumed into the coffers of imperialist finance capital. The issue for us to address is that all the criticism from our ‘anti-war’ group was directed, not against Obama, Cameron, Clegg, Miliband, Balls, or the hosts of retainers without whom the war could not have been waged, but against its victims.
A ‘broad’ movement – the cry was ‘Unity’!
StW leaders frequently call for unity. It is interesting to compare their words with their deeds. Their response to CPGB-ML criticism of their anti-Libya propaganda was not reason or even attempted justification, but sectarian bureaucracy.
On 23 September, the CPGB-ML received an email from the Stop the War Coalition informing us of a decision by the “officers group” to “reject the affiliation” of our party. We were told that this was on the basis that the CPGB-ML had been “publicly attacking Stop the War Coalition” in its publications.
We again brought the debate back to the real issues, in our October statement.
Lindsey German sent a follow-up email clarifying that “the officers” felt that our “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.”
But when did StW declare its ‘officers group’ to be above criticism – on pain of expulsion? In what statute or officers group meeting minute is this ruling secreted away? We are certainly not aware of it. And how is the policy of a broad coalition to be corrected, if it errs, without criticism?
John Rees, speaking at StW’s 2010 AGM, which had just passed the CPGB-ML’s ‘No cooperation with war crimes’ resolution thundered:
“I personally support the call for victory to the resistance in Iraq and Afghanistan – but I also know that the strength of our campaign comes from its breadth … And if this slogan puts off our affiliates – like the Quakers – then I am against it, and oppose the resolution.” (From memory)
Here is a fine thing. Counterfire leader John Rees opposing his own fervently held beliefs to hold a broad coalition together – for how can we have an anti-war movement without Quakers? (Incidentally, no Quaker we have ever spoken to – and we have spoken to a surprising number, although admittedly not at StW meetings – disagrees with the idea that an oppressed nation or people has the right to defend itself.)
Consistent anti-imperialism is just too far ahead of the curve, you see. Obviously, Rees is well up for the fight against British imperialism, but you know, these Quakers just aren’t gonna go for it, so – regrettably – the deal’s off. His speech, delivered to a carefully managed but highly spirited conference, was just enough to (narrowly) defeat the motion.
The choice: oppose Nato or compromise with imperialism
The real choice, of course, is not ‘Quakers or communists’, but whether the aim of StW can be reconciled with the class interests of the capitalists who wage these wars. If we are serious about actually stopping war, the CPGB-ML believes that we must oppose the capitalist imperialist system that on a daily and weekly basis engenders war – and campaign to raise British workers’ awareness of the actions of their own ruling class at home and abroad. This inevitably involves confronting groups and cliques that directly or indirectly support social democracy with the contradictions in their own political position.
Logically, that includes challenging the social-democratic ‘leaders’ of left Labour who talk of their opposition to war while in practice make their careers out of sitting in the parties of war and asking workers to support those parties at every juncture. We cannot run with the hare and hunt with the hounds.
Learning lessons for the future – defend Syria!
All this is not simply an academic exercise in point scoring. There are very real practical consequences for our work next week, next month and next year, which make it of vital importance that the coalition should learn lessons and correct its stance.
Since the fall of Libya, all Stop the War’s national efforts have been directed at pointing out the threat of war against Iran. And while that threat is very real, and must certainly be mobilised against, such activity cannot be allowed to act as a cover for ignoring the much more imminent threat against that other sovereign anti-imperialist nation in the Middle East: Syria.
As well as carving out an independent economic path free from the diktat of the IMF and World Bank, Syria is home to the headquarters of many Palestinian resistance movements, and a firm supporter of Lebanon’s anti-imperialist resistance movement, Hizbollah. Millions of Palestinian and Iraqi refugees have made their homes there, and the country is Iran’s strongest regional ally, as well as being an implacable foe of Israel. Although described by western media as a ‘dictator’, President Bashar al-Assad is actually the leader of a broad-based coalition government of national unity, which comprises many political parties, including communists. All of which makes the country a prime target for imperialism’s guns.
The aggressive war being prepared by Nato and its regional stooges against Syria is using all the same tricks that were applied in the case of Libya. Nato is funding, training and arming disparate opposition and terrorist groups and parachuting in covert special forces to give them vital support, while Nato’s leaders push through UN resolutions about ‘democracy’ and the ‘safety of the people’ and, of course, orchestrate a hysterical media campaign of lies and disinformation.
And while some people do seem to have learned a lesson from the carnage in Libya, the Stop the War leadership does not yet seem to be among their number. Yet again, the coalition’s leaders are failing to take a consistently anti-imperialist and anti-war position; yet again, they are failing to stand up against the media lies and declare themselves to be on the side of the Syrian masses against Nato imperialism.
Instead of standing firmly against war on Syria, Stop the War leaders prefer not to talk about it. The recent picket for Iran and Syria didn’t feature a single speaker for Syria on the platform, and its recent emails refer to Syria only in passing.
Instead of standing up to imperialist propaganda, the Stop the War website carries articles referring to “Bashar al-Assad’s killing machine” while John Rees uses his television show to consistently denounce the legitimate government and legitimise Nato’s stooges, including the MI6-backed ‘Syrian Observatory for Human Rights’. Once more, Stop the War’s ‘opposition’ to Nato seems to be based more on tactical grounds than on any real ideological difference.
Let no-one be under any illusion: not only is a beautiful, cultured, independent country and its people under threat, but the illegal war already being waged by covert forces in Syria is a stepping-stone to even bloodier war against Iran, and from there to war against China and Russia. 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 side by side with the Syrian masses, demanding: Hands off Syria! Victory to Assad!
And above all, we must start to use our collective power to prevent the British ruling class from taking part in this criminal and barbaric conflagration.
CPGB-ML’s work on Libya and Syria:
Arab spring, Libya and Stop the War (Dec 2011)
Gaddafi tribute in London (Oct 2011)
Libya, a media war (Oct 2011)
PAIGC on Libya and Gaddafi (Sep 2011)
Eyewitness report-back from Libya (June 2011)
Imperialism’s interest in Syria (May 2011)
Libya, Syria and the Middle East (Reply to questions, May 2011)
Libya, Syria discussion (May 2011)
On Monday 5 December, Stop the War Coalition held a rally at Conway Hall headlined Don’t Attack Iran. Everyone in the hall (apart from the usual smattering of MI5 agents) was in agreement: none of us wanted to see Iran attacked.
From the platform, a very frail looking Tony Benn spoke first, confiding to us that when he was minister for energy (years ago when even I was young), some unidentified bloke in his ministerial office had helped Israel to “British” nuclear secrets. If that wasn’t bad enough, Benn also found out and all the “waste” plutonium from “our” civil nuclear industry had been secretly shipped off to America to make nuclear bombs.
Benn said he hadn’t found out about either of these outrages until after he left office. Which says it all about the effectiveness of Stop the War Coalition’s brand of ‘anti-imperialism’.
Not one of the speakers, including George Galloway, who (despite a terrible chest infection) headlined at his tub-thumping and fiery best, had any suggestions about what to do apart from march about with our banners and protest.
We were told to go back to our workplaces and trade unions and “expose” the media lies about Iran; but the speakers’ only stated aim was to bring more people out on the streets of London to wave banners and protest at some undeclared date in the future.
Most depressing of all was the quick mention of Syria in passing. No question of any ‘Don’t Attack Syria’ campaign. We were just told to watch our email inboxes as Stop the War Coalition planned to call us all out – you guessed it … to wave banners and protest at Downing Street at 5.00pm on the day Syria was attacked (or maybe the day after, the speaker wasn’t too sure).
Syria did better than Pakistan, as while all the speakers agreed that Pakistan was under threat, there was not even a suggestion of going to Downing Street with banners to protest over any attack on that benighted country.
So what is to be done? Well, when Stop the War Coalition does call us out, we will (as always) troop along with our banners and protest, but that by itself will do nothing. Two million of us waved banners and protested to stop the war in Iraq, and the imperialists laughed.
We have to do much more and something else. We have to go to the Stop the War national conference and demand something more than mere banner waving and protesting and wondering why these naughty imperialists won’t listen to reason.
The imperialists are listening to reason, they are listening to their own warmongering superprofits-seeking, anti-people reason. And they will never listen to our reason; they will only ‘listen’ to our actions.
This is where CPGB-ML conflicts with the present leadership of Stop the War Coalition. We understand that the one and only way to stop these continual bloody wars is the Jolly George way. The working class has to stop cooperating with imperialism.
We have to fight, not merely wring our hands, beat our breasts and plead with the imperialists to sit on the naughty step. This is big; it’s the future of the world.
By Steve James, via wsws.org
An article in Ireland’s Sunday World has drawn attention to relations between Mahdi al-Harati, former leader of the Tripoli Brigade of the National Transition Council, which played a central role in the Nato assault on Libya, and an unnamed US intelligence agency.
According to an unattributed article on 6 November, €200,000 in cash was stolen from al-Harati’s Dublin house a month previously.
The Sunday World reported that a criminal gang working the area found two envelopes stuffed with €500 notes during a raid on the al-Harati’s family home on 6 October. Jewellery was also stolen.
The article, apparently relying on police sources, stated that al-Harati, who has been a Dublin resident employed as an Arabic teacher for 20 years, claimed, when contacted by police, that the stolen cash was “given to him by an American intelligence agency”.
The article continued, “Astonished officers made contact with Mahdi al-Harati, who told them that he had travelled to France, the United States and Qatar the previous month and that representatives of an American intelligence agency had given him a significant amount of money to help in the efforts to defeat Gaddafi. He said he left two envelopes with his wife in case he was killed and took the rest of the cash with him when he went back to Libya.”
Al-Harati’s Tripoli Brigade was one of a number of military units put together in conjunction with the NTC to participate in the pro-imperialist overthrow of the regime of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. The brigade was formed in April 2011, following a trip by Al-Harati to Benghazi in the wake of the eruption of mass protests against Gaddafi in February 2011. From the first, the brigade appears to have been developed, and paid for, as a well-trained assault force, designed to operate alongside Nato for an attack on Tripoli.
Coordinated by al-Harati and his Irish-born brother-in-law, Husan al-Najar, a building contractor from Dublin, the Tripoli Brigade rapidly recruited a core of English-speaking Libyan exiles from Ireland, Canada, the UK and the US. These made their way to Nalut University in Libya, from where they recruited local opponents of the Gaddafi government.
By August 2011, the brigade had over 1,000 fighters trained by Qatari special forces, equipped with light modern weaponry, uniforms, body armour, communication equipment. The brigade boasted an eight-man sniper unit.
Throughout the assault on Libya, Qatar has functioned as a US proxy, channelling vast sums of cash and military resources into removing Gaddafi and fashioning a regime more suited to imperialist interests.
The brigade was involved in the August assault on Zawiya outside Tripoli and was one of the first units to enter and hold areas of Tripoli, which it attacked from three directions. It was reported as leading the shock assault on Gaddafi’s Bal al-Azizia fortress. After the fall of Tripoli, the brigade was given particular responsibility for guarding strategic locations and infrastructure in the city while hunting down remaining Gaddafi supporters.
Al-Harati became the deputy leader of the NTC’s military council, under former Libyan Islamic Fighting Group leader Abdelhakim Belhaj. He gave press interviews in September on the NTC’s perception of the military situation around one of Gaddafi’s last outposts, Bani Walid.
He also informed Al Jazeera of his view that the various militias and brigades were being “integrated into the Libyan army” and members of the former regime’s police force were being “summoned” to rejoin the new government’s police.
Al-Harati seems to have lost out during feuds between Belhaj’s Qatar-backed supporters and rival regional and religious militias that led to the resignation of Mahmoud Jibril as NTC leader and Libyan prime minister in October. Feuding, reflecting both squabbles for influence and oil money and generalised distrust of the new regime, saw heavily armed militias from Zintan, Tripoli and Nalut exchange gunfire in Tripoli and the Nafusa mountains.
On 5 October, CNN reported a tense press conference where al-Harati threatened, “Whoever doesn’t recognise the legitimacy of the (military) council doesn’t recognise the legitimacy of the national council.”
Immediately after the press conference, an NTC spokesman told CNN that members of the Zintan-based Kekaa militia tried to arrest Belhaj and al-Harati.
Al-Harati resigned his position shortly after, around the time when cash was seized from his Dublin house — the timing of which may or may not be a coincidence. The Sunday World claimed Irish travellers carried out the robbery.
Jibril has subsequently been replaced by Abdurrahim al-Keib, a Tripoli-born former engineer and oil industry professor, someone deemed more acceptable to both the imperialist powers and, due to his lack of a political power base, to the contending militia factions.
A significant feature of al-Harati’s activities are his relations with so-called ‘anti-war’ groups in Ireland — an indication of the extent to which the ex-lefts internationally are dripping with Libyan blood.
Prior to his Libyan adventure, al-Harati was quite well known in such circles in Dublin. He was on board the Challenger 1 vessel in its 2010 voyage to Gaza as part of the Free Gaza Flotilla, which was brutally assaulted by Israeli forces. Al-Harati reportedly suffered a diabetic attack during the Israeli raids, in which nine people were killed, and was hospitalised. He returned to Dublin a hero.
The Irish Anti-War Movement (IAWM) unequivocally called for the NTC to be armed and internationally recognised.
On 28 March the IAWM, whose steering committee includes Richard Boyd Barrett of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), stated that the “best use that Egypt could make of the $1.3bn of military aid that it gets from the US would be to arm the Libyan rebels”.
The same statement called on the newly installed Fine Gael/Labour government to recognise the NTC, something they did in August.
Throughout the summer, when al-Harati and his brigade were undergoing combat training in Nalut and being lauded in the mainstream Irish press, the IAWM maintained complete silence on the Tripoli Brigade’s activities. Nor have they made any comment on the Sunday World report.
Instead, IAWM statements and articles have maintained that despite unfortunate episodes, the NTC has in fact “liberated” Libya. A 26 October posting on their website from the SWP’s Eamonn McCann sought to excuse the public lynching of Gaddafi on the basis that “the maiming and killing wasn’t done in cold blood”.
Nor do the IAWM’s pro-imperialist activities stop at Libya. The IAWM’s website currently hosts a petition calling for the German and Turkish governments to use their leverage with the government of Russia to force it to drop support for the Assad regime in Syria.
This position, notwithstanding the repressive character of Assad’s government, serves only to assist in US, UK, French and Turkish efforts to emulate their Libyan military model in Syria, at the expense of triggering a new and even more disastrous regional bloodbath.