In the latest book from Manifesto Press, Andrew Murray, chair of the Stop-the-War Coalition from 2001 to 2011, dissects the charges that its opponents bring against Britain’s most successful progressive political movement.
From almost the beginning of this century Stop the War began to shape, and be shaped by, a growing movement of British people angered by an unceasing series of unjust wars, increasingly alienated by conventional politics but willing to take action.
The Stop the War Coalition gathered an unprecedented assembly of disparate forces; fused the best elements of Britain’s labour and trade union movement, every left wing and progressive tendency that was prepared to embrace the self-discipline of coalition politics, important sections of our Moslem communities and new layers of mostly young people. In doing so it helped to transform British politics.
An unceasing rain of criticism descended on it from the beginning. Stop the War’s case against the Iraq War was demonstrably well founded and is now widely accepted. Those whose advocacy for the war and whose criticism of the Coalition was most shrill have gone silent.
However, since Cameron’s first attempt to involve Britain in a bombing campaign directed at regime change in Syria was thwarted – and the then Labour leader became the channel for opposition to war – the grounds for criticism has shifted.
The political establishment in Britain, which, hitherto has included the leadership of the Labour Party, increasingly is now obliged to take into account the forces unleashed by this movement .
In 2003 the dimensions which the movement assumed at the height of the war threat subverted the unspoken rule that questions of war and peace were Royal prerogatives and solely the business of the political class. The failure of a great mass of opinion to divert this elite from its symbiotic incorporation in an imperialism led by the USA led to the emergence in Britain of a distinctly anti-imperialist discourse.
The kind of bipartisan politics that rendered the main policies of the two major parties of government distinguished only in minor detail has been disrupted by the new mass politics of protest. A fusion of the anti-war and anti austerity streams has the potential to take this transformation a stage further.
For Jeremy Corbyn the road to his triumph in the election as Labour Party leader began on 15 February 2003 when he spoke before the two million people who demonstrated against the Iraq War.
Thus an important element in the new offensive against Stop the War is directed at Corbyn and the threat to contemporary imperialism and neo liberalism that his election as prime minister, would bring. Little surprise then that the attacks have been renewed.
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