“Hypocrisy, the most protected of vices.” Moliere (Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, 1622-1673)
Last week, a little more was learned as to the circumventions in Whitehall and Washington delaying the publication of the findings of Sir John Chilcot’s marathon inquiry in to the background of the Iraq invasion.
The UK’s Chilcot Inquiry, was convened under then Prime Minister Gordon Brown, to establish the decisions taken by the UK government and military, pre and post invasion. It ran from 24 November 2009 until 2 February 2011 and cost an estimated £7.5m. The as yet unpublished report is believed to run to 1,000,000 words.
The stumbling block – more of an Israeli-style ‘separation barrier’ in reality – has been the correspondence between Tony Blair and George W Bush, prior to an invasion and occupation that former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan finally told the BBC was “illegal”, and that “painful lessons” had been learned. ‘Lessons’ clearly not learned by the current British government. (16 September 2004)
The communications, in Sir John Chilcot’s words to former Cabinet Secretary Lord O’Donnell, related to “The question of when and how the prime minister (Tony Blair) made commitments to the US about the UK’s involvement in military action in Iraq, and subsequent decisions on the UK’s continuing involvement, is central to its considerations.” (Guardian, 17 July 2013)
Further: “Chilcot said the release of notes of the conversations between Blair and Bush would serve to ‘illuminate Mr Blair’s position at critical points’ in the run up to war.”
The inquiry had also been seeking clarification from O’Donnell’s successor, Sir Jeremy Heywood, regarding inclusion of references to “the content of Mr Blair’s notes to President Bush, and to the records of discussions between Mr Blair and Presidents Bush and Obama”. The wall remains in place.
Sir Jeremy Heywood, now the country’s most senior civil servant, was Tony Blair’s private secretary during the period of the trans-Atlantic lies that led to the Iraq war and during the creation of the Blair regime’s ‘dodgy dossiers’.
Interestingly too: “O’Donnell had consulted Blair before saying the notes must remain secret.” Effectively, one of the accused – in an action that has destroyed a country, lynched the president, murdered his sons and teenage nephew and caused the deaths of perhaps one and a half million people – is deciding what evidence can be presented before the court. Chilcot has seen the documents, but seemingly needs the accused’s permission to publish them.
A stitch-up of which any ‘rogue’ or ‘totalitarian’ regime would surely be proud.
Centre to the dispute between the inquiry, Cameron and his ennobled gate keepers is material requested for inclusion in the final report: “to reflect its analysis of discussions in Cabinet and Cabinet Committees and their significance”.
The documents being denied to the inquiry include 25 pieces of correspondence sent by Tony Blair to George W Bush and 130 documents relating to conversations between these lead plotters of Iraq’s destruction. Additionally: “dozens of records of Cabinet meetings”.
Ironically, on 31 October 2006, David Cameron voted in favour of a motion brought by the Scottish National Party and Wales’ Plaid Cymru (‘The Party of Wales’) calling for an inquiry into the Blair government’s conduct of the Gulf war.
On 15 June 2009, in a parliamentary debate, the terms of the Chilcot Inquiry were presented in detail, duly recorded in Hansard, the parliamentary records.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Blair’s successor stated: “In order that the committee is as objective and non-partisan as possible, the membership of the committee will consist entirely of non-partisan public figures acknowledged to be experts and leaders in their fields. There will be no representatives of political parties from either side of this House.”
David Cameron, then Leader of the Opposition stated piously:
“The whole point of having an Inquiry is that it has to be able to make clear recommendations, to go wherever the evidence leads, to establish the full truth and to ensure that the right lessons are learned … in a way that builds public confidence.”
Cameron was particularly concerned about: ‘openness’. How times change.
Further, said Cameron:
“The inquiry needs to be, and needs to be seen to be, truly independent and not an establishment stitch-up … The prime minister was very clear that the inquiry would have access to all British documents and all British witnesses. Does that mean that the inquiry may not have access to documents from the USA … On the scope of the inquiry, will the prime minister confirm that it will cover relations with the United States …”
Cameron concluded with again a demand for “openness and transparency”.
In response, Gordon Brown stated:
“I cannot think of an inquiry with a more comprehensive, wider or broader remit than the one that I have just announced. Far from being restricted, it will cover eight years, from 2001 to 2009. Far from being restricted, it will have access to any documents that are available, and that will include foreign documents that are available in British archives. [Emphasis mine.]
However, four years is a long time in politics, and last week, as David Cameron traveled to Sri Lanka for the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, it transpired that the documents Sir John Chilcot had been pursuing and been denied for six months have been also blocked by: “officials in the White House and the US department of state, who have refused to sanction any declassification of critical pre-and post-war communications between George W Bush and Tony Blair”.
David Cameron is apparently also blocking evidence “on Washington’s orders, from being included in the report of an expensive and lengthy British Inquiry.”
However, ‘shame’ clearly not being a word in Cameron’s lexicon, he landed in Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon, a British Colony 1815-1948) as the above shoddy details broke, in full colonial mode.
Spectacular welcoming ceremonies barely over, he launched in to an entirely undiplomatic, public tirade, at this gathering of the ‘Commonwealth family of nations’ alleging that his host, President Mahinda Rajapaksa, was guilty of war crimes during the civil war with the Tamil Tigers.
It is not disputed that, as in any conflict, terrible crimes were committed on both sides. But these are accusations from the man both covering up the genesis of massacres of genocidal magnitude – and who enjoined in the near destruction of Libya, the resultant lynching of the country’s leader, the murder of his sons and small grandchildren and uncounted others in another decimation of a country that had threatened no other.
Cameron’s Libya is Blair’s Iraq. As in Iraq, the dying continues daily.
The pontification also from a prime minister backing funding for the cannibalistic-orientated insurgents in Syria – the beheading, dismembering, looting, displacing, kidnapping, chemical weapons lobbying, child killing, infanticide-bent crazies – including those from his own country.
In Sri Lanka, he demanded the country ensure “credible, transparent and independent investigations into alleged war crimes” and said if this did not happen by the March deadline he arbitrarily imposed, he would press the UN Human Rights Council to hold an international inquiry.
Further: “truth telling”, he said, was essential. To cite hypocrisy of breathtaking proportions has become a redundant accusation, but words are failing.
In the event Cameron “left Colombo having failed to secure any concessions from President Rajapaksa or persuade fellow leaders to criticise Sri Lanka’s record in a communique”. (Guardian, 16 November)
As the prime minster slunk out, President Mahinda Rajapaksa delivered an apt, withering reaction: “People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones,” he responded.
Ironically, in spite a tragic recent past, Sri Lanka is the only country in South Asia rated high on the Human Development Index. The UK and ‘allies’ recent victims Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan barely make it to the bottom.
David Cameron returned to Britain still having to grapple with how to evade delivering truth to the Chilcot Inquiry.
Hopefully, he will read a letter from writer Lesley Docksey:
“It was British taxpayers’ money that funded the Chilcot Inquiry, and this taxpayer wants her money’s worth. All the British government papers concerning the sorry affair of an invasion of another country belong to this nation – not to the United States, not to Tony Blair and not to the current government. Taxpayers aren’t here to save the faces of politicians.
“Nor is it, in the words of the Cabinet Office, ‘in the public’s interest’ that exchanges between the UK prime minister and the US president are kept secret’ – sorry, ‘privileged’ – from those who are paying their wages. The phrase ‘in the public interest’ only ever means the interests of the government of the day.
“Unless Sir John Chilcot and his team can publish a full and honest report, no lessons will be learnt by future governments. But then, if those lessons were learnt, and we the public knew (as in fact we do) what they were, this country would find it difficult to ever invade anywhere ever again.
“So, Sir John, in the words of a former PM, the Duke of Wellington, ‘Publish and be damned!’” (Independent, 18th November 2013)
Oh, and as David Cameron was lecturing Sri Lanka on ‘transparency’, the Conservatives were removing “a decade of speeches from their website and from the main internet library – including one in which David Cameron claimed that being able to search the web would democratise politics by making ‘more information available to more people’”.
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 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.
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.
This motion was passed unanimously at the recent CPGB-ML party congress
This congress recognises that the imperialist beasts of the USA, Britain and France planned, financed and played the major role, assisted by their various middle-eastern puppets, in the overthrow of the popular Libyan government of Muammar Gaddafi.
This congress notes that they, through the trickery of a UN resolution to impose a ‘no-fly zone’, supposedly to ‘protect’ the Libyan people, used the combined air power of Nato member states to carpet-bomb and destroy Libyan airports, military bases, media stations, hospitals, schools, electricity and water supplies, general infrastructure and residential areas alike.
Congress further notes that, even with the great military advantage that this onslaught from outside gave the rats of the Transitional National Council (TNC), they were so numerically weak and lacking in any support within Libya that they could not make decisive use of this advantage. So it was that Libya was flooded with military ‘advisors’ from the imperialist regimes and elite troops from all the neighbouring states that were under the sway of imperialism.
This congress applauds the heroic struggle that the Libyan people and their army waged against Nato’s proxy forces on the ground, despite the horrendous effects of the imperialists’ all-out air war, noting that they held out for more than six months until the capture, torture and public murder of the leader of Libya’s green revolution, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.
Congress also sends a red salute to the brave green fighters in Libya, who are continuing to put up resistance to imperialism and its puppets today.
Closer to home, this congress condemns the disgusting role played during the war on Libya by the ‘left’ supporters of imperialism – the social democrats, revisionists and Trotskyists. In Britain, the worst of these enemies of the international proletariat once more proved themselves to be the Labour party, the SWP, Counterfire, the CPB, and the ‘anti-war’ umbrella group in which many of those parties’ spokespeople play a leading role: the Stop the War Coalition (StW). StW held a single nationally-organised demonstration over the issue of the overthrow of the sovereign state of Libya by imperialism – but they held it outside the Libyan embassy supporting the imperialist-backed TNC and opposing the anti-imperialist leadership of Colonel Gaddafi!
This congress affirms that imperialism is the main enemy of the international working class, and that US imperialism, as the biggest and most powerful imperialist state, is the biggest enemy to world peace.
Congress further affirms that in an imperialist war the duty of the working class in an imperialist country is to work for the defeat of its own government. And an essential part of that process must be exposing and leading workers away from the misleadership of social democracy and its revisionist and Trotskyist hand-maidens, who will try with all their guile to keep workers tied to the imperialist war machine through revolutionary-sounding phrases and lies.
This congress resolves to continue working to show our class that we do have the power to stop the imperialist war machine by starving it of all the necessary supplies for its wars of brigandage, whether those supplies be weapons, transport or soldiers!
Congress further resolves to use all means at the party’s disposal to disseminate information about the ongoing battle in Libya, in order that British workers should understand that there is a popular resistance movement fighting to rid the country of imperialist forces. Our party will continue to expose the vile and rapacious doings of the TNC rats who now hope to rule Libya (with imperialist troops stood at their shoulders). These villains have murdered, kidnapped, raped, looted and evicted from their homes those supporting or suspected of supporting the green resistance. From the earliest days, even before coming to power, it was well known that the TNC rats were lynching black Libyans, as well as other black Africans working in the country, and our party will continue to remind the world of this fact.
Finally, this congress resolves to continue pointing out that this bloody war was brought upon the Libyan people in order to grab the country’s oil, to remove its anti-imperialist leadership, and to kick open the door to the re-conquest of Africa. The freedom and protection of the Libyan people was never a real reason for waging the war – except, perhaps, in the minds of a few simple souls who simply cannot, or will not, see the jackboot an inch from their face, even when it is pointed out to them.
This congress remains confident that the Libyan masses will rise again to rid their land of the imperialist puppets and bring the imperialists’ dreams of world domination to nought.
Long live the memory of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, hero of the Libyan and African peoples!
Victory to the anti-imperialist peoples!
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
“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.
From the International Report delivered to the CPGB-ML’s central committee on 4 February
Russia and China continue to frustrate attempts by US imperialism to establish a no-fly zone over Syria that would be aimed at obliterating its independence in the same way as was done with Libya.
A spokesman for the Russian government said that in the case of Libya it had made serious mistakes. These lay not in backing Gaddafi but in not backing him nearly strongly enough. Dimitry Medvedev, the Russian president who made the decision to abstain on the UN vote imposing the no-fly zone on Libya, has been heavily criticised within Russia for that decision.
The Russians have made it quite clear that no amount of pleas from the Arab League, manipulated as it is by western imperialism, is going to stop it from wielding its UN Security Council veto in Syria’s interests.
In the meantime, violence is intensifying in Syria as Turks and others get themselves involved in the assaults on Syria’s sovereignty.
It has become clear even to the blind that, for the most part, the opponents of the government in Syria are not innocent people peacefully expressing their disagreement with government policy but disparate armed thugs who are unable to win any substantial internal support for their various policies and are therefore bent on destabilising Syria by whatever means, happy to court the support of imperialist countries determined to put an end to Syria’s independence
From the International Report delivered to the CPGB-ML’s central committee on 4 February
Bani Walid has been retaken by Gaddafi loyalists, and there have been huge pro-Gaddafi demonstrations in Benghazi, supposedly the most pro-rebel town in Libya. At the same time, it is reported that the different tribes involved in the so-called Transitional National Government are at each other’s throats.
In the meantime, it has come out that torture is rife in the prisons run by the Transitional National Government, with Médecins Sans Frontieres withdrawing its services in protest at the fact that it was being sent prisoners for treatment after torture, purely for the purpose of making sure they didn’t die so that torture could continue as soon as they had been treated.
The following article will be presented to a workshop at Occupy Bristol tomorrow.
Iranian protesters during a demonstration in front of the British Embassy, in Tehran, on Tuesday 29 November.
Shock-horror: Iranians invade our embassy!
There was a big splash in the media at the end of November. The headlines were screaming about Iranian government agents attacking the British Embassy in Tehran.
Western governments lined up to say what a terrible affront this was against international law; what uncivilised behaviour this was. Statesmen pointed to a recent report from the IAEA (the UN’s nuclear watchdog) suggesting that there was now evidence that Iran is trying to make a nuclear bomb.
It was clear what capitalism wanted everyone to believe: Iranians are a bunch of wild-eyed Islamist fanatics hell-bent on plunging the world into nuclear war, and the only thing standing in their way is the glorious ‘international community’.
Why do they want us to believe this story? Because our masters want to get rid of the government in Tehran and replace it with another that will do their bidding. Why? Because they need to reinforce their stranglehold on the oil market and their geopolitical power in the region, and an independent, anti-imperialist Iran is getting in their way.
And why is it so urgent to attack Iran right now? Because the capitalist system is in such a deep crisis of overproduction that the only solution is for imperialism to plunge deeper into war – or for imperialism itself to be overthrown.
Let’s look at some of the reasons why those Iranian students might have been angry enough to want to occupy the British Embassy.
Back in 1953, Iran had an elected, secular government, led by Mohammad Mossadeq. This was overthrown in a coup engineered by British and US imperialism, which then planted in its place the Shah of Iran. Under the Shah’s bloody repression, Iran was plunged back into feudal backwardness, with a government that served the interests of the West.
In 1979, popular revolt ousted the Shah. Early hopes that this would develop in the direction of socialist revolution were dashed, as the mosque benefited from the relative weakness and disarray of the socialist forces. Yet henceforth Iran continued to be a thorn in the side of imperialism.
Least welcome of all to western imperialists has been the advent of the populist Ahmadinejad government in 2005, standing on a broad base of support from the poorest sections of society, supporting the Palestinian struggle against zionism and championing the independence and sovereignty of the Iranian nation.
In particular, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been associated in the western press with the development of Iran’s nuclear industry. Imperialism pretends to have proof that Iran, under the cover of a civil nuclear programme, is really aiming to produce its own bomb. There are two points to make here.
First: the countries with the worst track record of war crimes in the last half century, America, Britain and Israel, have more nuclear weapons than any other nation. Israel alone possesses around 200 ready-to-go nuclear weapons. Under these circumstances, weaker countries might be well-advised to equip themselves with the best defence equipment available.
Iraq and Libya both conceded to imperialist pressure to give up their nuclear weapons. North Korea declined. Which country has yet to be invaded and occupied?
Second: contrary to what is implied in the most recent IAEA report, it remains the case that there is no evidence that Teheran is currently trying to make a bomb – and America knows it. The panic around the imaginary bomb is being whipped up purely and simply to bump public opinion into support for further aggression against Iran.
For years, exhaustive and intrusive inspections have been carried out within Iran, and for years the IAEA itself had the honesty to conclude that there was no proof to back up the allegations, despite enormous pressure from imperialism.
How the US nobbled the nuclear watchdog
In 2009 the former IAEA chief, Mohamed ElBaradei, came to the end of his term of office. Washington never liked ElBaradei, who entertained an inconvenient belief in the neutrality of UN bodies and took his job too seriously for America’s liking.
This time they went to work, lobbying hard to bump a rank outsider, Yukia Amano, into the top position. Secret US diplomatic cables released on WikiLeaks reveal him to be “solidly in the US court on every key strategic decision, from high-level personnel appointments to the handling of Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons programme”, and report that “Amano’s first bilateral review since his election illustrates the very high degree of convergence between his priorities and our own agenda at the IAEA. The coming transition period provides a further window for us to shape Amano’s thinking before his agenda collides with the IAEA Secretariat bureaucracy.”
So having got all their ducks in a line, the White House was able to sit back and wait for a newly tractable IAEA to dish up its ‘dodgy dossier’ on 8 November. On the back of this fiction Washington managed to steam-roller through the IAEA’s board of governors a resolution expressing “deep and increasing concern about the unresolved issues regarding the Iranian nuclear programme, including those which need to be clarified to exclude the existence of possible military dimensions”.
However, Washington had failed to get Iran reported to the Security Council or to impose a deadline for Tehran to comply with the latest demands. Clearly the need was felt to ratchet up the campaign of intimidation another notch. To this end, on 21 November, the US, Britain and Canada announced unilateral sanctions against Iran’s banking and energy sectors. France put in a sly kick too, urging world powers to boycott Iranian oil and freeze (ie, steal) her financial assets. China and Russia have joined Iran in denouncing these new sanctions.
The dirty war
Meanwhile, behind all this fabrication of evidence, diplomatic arm twisting and economic blackmail, imperialism has long been engaging in a brutal campaign of espionage, terrorism, assassination and sabotage against Iran.
Leading Iranian scientists have long been targeted for assassination. Recent examples include the car bombs that claimed the lives of two university professors, Majid Shahriari and Fereydoun Abbasi last year, and the booby-trapped motorcycle that slew another professor, Masoud Ali-Mohammadi.
Now, with rival Republican contenders for the presidency striving to outdo each other in fascist zeal, the ‘secret’ war against Iran is the best-advertised in history. According to AFP, Newt Gingrich “proposed at a 12 November debate that Washington kill Iranian scientists and disrupt Tehran’s suspect nuclear programme – ‘all of it covertly, all of it deniable’.
“In that same forum, Santorum said the United States must do ‘whatever it takes to make sure’ Iran does not develop a nuclear programme – then wondered whether Washington may already be heavily involved in doing just that. ‘There have been scientists turning up dead in Russia and in Iran. There have been computer viruses. There have been problems at their facility. I hope that the United States has been involved with that,’ he said. ‘I hope that we have been doing everything we can, covertly, to make sure that that programme doesn’t proceed,’ he said.” (8 December 2011)
There can be no doubt that Washington, London and Tel Aviv are already up to the neck in dirty tricks without the need for further prompting from the Tea Baggers. The ‘computer viruses’ to which Santorum referred clearly has in mind the Stuxnet cyber assault on Iran’s nuclear programme launched last year.
Nor are the attacks confined to cyberspace. In mid-November a missile-testing base near Tehran suffered a blast that reportedly killed over 30 members of the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps, including a leader of Iran’s missile programme, Major General Hassan Moqqadam. Time Magazine said this was the work of Mossad.
Then at the end of November there was a further blast, this time at a uranium processing plant in Isfahan. Israel’s former director of national security, Major-General Giora Eiland, bragged that the explosion was no accident, adding that “There aren’t many coincidences, and when there are so many events there is probably some sort of guiding hand, though perhaps it’s the hand of God.”
Curiously, none of the dirty tricks practiced by Washington and Tel Aviv excites anything like the manufactured outrage that greeted the B-movie fiction spun around a non-existent Iranian government plot to bump off the Saudi ambassador to the US.
29 November demonstration against the British embassy
So maybe now it’s easier to grasp why Occupy Bristol and Occupy London were joined by Occupy the British Embassy.
The self-appointed guardians of ‘democratic western values’ send saboteurs and death squads into other people’s countries at will, safe in the knowledge that the ‘international community’ will not raise a finger to stop them. But just let some enraged Iranian students lob a few bricks at the British embassy and pitch a portrait of the Queen out of the window and the UN Security Council cannot restrain its righteous indignation, condemning the demo “in the strongest terms”.
William Hague whinged that Iran had “committed a grave breach” of the Vienna convention. Obama declared himself “deeply disturbed” by what had happened, the German foreign minister fulminated against this “violation of international law”, whilst his French counterpart agreed that “the Iranian regime has shown what little consideration it has for international law”.
As for the nonsense that the occupying students were just acting as agents of the government, this hardly squares with the fact that the demonstrators in the end could only be restrained by the government’s own security forces using tear gas to clear the embassy compound! (We need hardly add that, had the demonstrators instead got themselves tear-gassed protesting against Ahmadinejad, they would at once have been hailed by the bourgeois media as peaceful democrats cruelly repressed by a tyrannical regime.)
Iran stands firm
Imperialist aggression against Iran is driven not only by the desire to humble an anti-imperialist force and strengthen and extend the imperialist stranglehold on resources and markets in the Middle East, but also by the strategic goal of containing Russia and China, a fact which is not lost on either country.
China champions Iran’s right to develop its civil nuclear industry, and neither China nor Russia has any interest in collaborating with the West’s sanctions campaign. This position constitutes an unwelcome stumbling block for the warmongers.
This challenge to imperialist world domination, taken together with the courageous anti-colonial resistance being mounted in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Somalia, all add to the perils awaiting the warmongers should they persist.
Nor should imperialism dismiss lightly Iran’s own ability to defend herself, even without the bomb she is accused of coveting. The recent successful downing of an advanced US RQ-170 drone over the eastern part of the country, one of many drones in routine violation of Iranian airspace, not only exposes US covert operations and demonstrates Tehran’s vigilance but also delivers sensitive military intelligence into anti-imperialist hands.
Iran’s struggle to defend herself demands the warmest support from all those in the anti-imperialist movement, not least those resisting imperialism within the belly of the beast itself.
After all, who better upholds the anti-capitalist aims of the Occupy movement than those brave students who dared to occupy the British embassy in Tehran? The students put it very well themselves, in a letter explaining their actions.
“‘We have occupied the British embassy to voice support for the 99 percenters of the world and in opposition to the policies of the world arrogance,” the letter said on Saturday. ‘We as the students who have occupied the British embassy in Tehran announce explicitly that we are standing for our historical decision and will humiliate Britain and make it regret,’ it added.
“The Iranian students called on the students, elites and truth-seeking people across the world to attack the interests of Britain in their region and stop London from looting their countries and nations any further.”
By giving active solidarity to those who stand in defence of Iran, Syria and other anti-imperialist countries under attack, we the 99 percent will strengthen our hand against the same imperialist enemy that is currently demolishing welfare, looting jobs and driving us into poverty and war.
Victory to the Iranian resistance against the imperialist warmongers!
Victory to the 99 percent!