Attacks on Stop the War are attempt to stop democratic debate and campaigning
A reply from Stop the War to Phil Burton-Cartledge

by Steve Bell, Murad Qureshi and Carol Turner

On 12 December the London demonstration against the bombing of Syria heard the following message from Jeremy Corbyn.

I want to thank the Stop the War Coalition, and all of you here today, for standing up against the government’s decision to join yet another war in the Middle East – this time in Syria. The anti-war movement has been a vital force at the heart of our democracy. The attacks on it as somehow illegitimate are an attempt to close down democratic debate and campaigning.”

As Labour Party members, and officers of Stop the War (STW), we share Jeremy’s analysis. The attacks on Jeremy’s stand, and STW, have included red-baiting and witch-hunting. Cameron’s infamous comment was that Jeremy and supportive MPs were “terrorist sympathisers”. The Telegraph, Mail, etc., have poured abuse on Jeremy, the Coalition, and individual Officers. With no pretence of balance, the media makes a simple fund-raising dinner a major news event, hoping for some provocative outcome.

In our view, this assault from ruling circles is an attempt to destroy Labour’s anti-war leader, and discredit the most representative organisation of the anti-war movement. It is then a shock to see Left Futures, which generally supports Jeremy, offer a platform to a “left-wing” voice joining in this ugly clamour. The article’s title alone demonstrates a lack of basic respect for our activity – The anti-imperialism of fools.

STW is a political campaign, not a political party. It was established to combat the new wave of belligerence towards developing countries from the UK government. We did not take upon ourselves the task of solving the problems facing countries under attack. No agreement on that would be possible, or necessary. Our concern was that the UK government was casting off all restraints in supporting the US led ‘War on Terror’. STW supporters are widely drawn from the labour and union movement, pacifists, faith communities, political parties, youth and students, and many other distinct groups.

For over 14 years STW has organised countless actions against the wars upon Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. Our analysis has proved correct, unlike that of our detractors. A serious critique of STW has to register our actual contribution to progressive politics. The author of the Left Futures article fails to make any concrete assessment, offering innuendos about murky links instead

Thus Phil Burton-Cartledge begins his analysis using an article from Stop the War’s website which was immediately removed, had no official status, wasn’t written by a STW member, and which our web editor resigned over. All the same, he takes this as absolute proof of STW’s toxicity.

Nothing in the article acknowledges 14 years of work by activists who consistently organised against Blair and Cameron’s lethal assaults upon poor countries. Instead we are accused, again without evidence, of “soft soaping whoever the White House or Downing Street take exception to”. Someone eagle-eyed enough to see an entire viewpoint from a deleted article could surely have quoted from countless official statements on STW’s website to prove their point. The failure to do so proves the opposite of the author’s smear.

This former aid to Tristram Hunt MP prefers to ride a hobby horse over some old debates and personal differences with left organisations. We have no interest in this type of debate, and we doubt if many people in the Labour Party do either. Our immediate interest is in organising the opposition to Britain bombing Syria.

Since 2011, the UK government has demanded regime change in Syria. It has provided intelligence, training and communications technology to the armed opposition. It has aided US military training programmes in Turkey and Jordan for oppositionists. Despite the decision of Parliament in 2013 against military action in Syria, it engaged in military action by having RAF personnel fly US planes, by having SAS forces deployed in US uniforms, and introducing drone strikes. What Diane Abbott MP has called “Cameron’s secret war” doesn’t rate a mention from our author.

In the few weeks since Parliament authorised action on December 2nd the case for war is falling apart. Cameron’s claim of 70,000 moderate forces on the ground has been widely debunked. Fallon has now accepted that bombing will kill civilians, as war is “messy”. Cameron has accepted that the war will go on for years. The actual military significance of British bombing has been illustrated by only 2 strike missions having been flown since then, and the Brimstone missiles remain unused in the few bombing raids, when we were told these were going to change things on the ground. So much for the need of British missiles and jets.

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