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Another February, Another Stop the War ‘Coalition’ Conference |Ten Years On – What Have We Achieved?
Feb 8th, 2013
Ten years on – what have we achieved?
Stopping the war means stopping the imperial war machine: Join the Axis of Resistance!
Another February, another Stop the War ‘coalition’ conference.
British imperialist politicians, industrialists, mineral extraction conglomerates, weapons manufacturers and city financiers are no doubt quaking in their (custom-made John Lobb) shoes, all a-quiver in anticipation to see what militant challenges to their holocaust industry will emanate from this great anti-war gathering.
Except that a year after curtailing debate, unconstitutionally ‘disaffiliating’ anti-imperialists and ensuring Labour party control, unhindered by electoral consultation with the membership, StW ‘leaders’ have taken the step of scrapping the AGM format altogether, and substituting instead a ‘conference’ of an altogether less threatening type: there will be no motions, no debate, no ‘democracy in action’, no ‘grass-roots participation’. This year, “ten years on”, the platform will deliver their sterile lectures uninterrupted by activists’ disquieting notions of actually resisting imperialism. A kind of Marxism 13 for the Counterfire group.
“Ten years of banging on and on – in increasing obscurity, with ever fewer people paying attention, while the British imperialist war machine grinds inexorably on.” Would be more accurate.
What obstacles will ‘leaders’ like John Rees, Jeremy Corbyn, Tony Benn, Lindsay German – not to forget crowd-pulling Trotskyite linguistic guru Noam Chomsky – throw before the City of London’s ‘god-given’ right to exploit, rape pillage and plunder the globe?
There can be no doubt that this conference will be used as a platform for cosy reminiscences on the ‘great success’ of our ‘million-man march’ through London, on that wintery Saturday afternoon of 15 February 2003. Indeed, all our party comrades were there – although our party was not yet born. It is inspiring to be with the masses, no doubt. We could almost sense our strength, the slumbering power of the working masses. But what was the programme? Where the real disciplined unity? How were we to implement our goal? Were we simply a pressure group, begging the imperialist armies and their Labour party quartermasters to show mercy?
For even as we were marching, the Labour government – content that the official anti-war movement was in safe hands – was laying invasion plans, and was quick to talk down the significance of 4 percent of the British population marching through the capital. We failed to strike while the iron was hot! One month later, the troops were on Iraqi soil. For those who have taken the trouble to count, studies show that the real death toll stands at 4 million in Iraq alone, with 6 million displaced internally and externally. What kind of sorry ‘success’ story is that? And what is the conclusion that the average worker drew? That marching was useless, that the movement was over – that it had failed. On balance, their analysis is better than StW’s.
Renting a crowd?
Let’s not deceive ourselves. It was not the SWP or CPB, and certainly not the Labour party, who turned British workers onto the streets, but a section of British and European capitalists (manufacturing capital, as opposed to the oil and armaments giants) who were less desperate, more risk-averse, and opposed the Anglo-American militarist agenda and impending catastrophe in Iraq and the Middle East. It was the Daily Mail, that enlightened bastion of radical ideas, which advertised the march and called in its editorials for Britons to participate. The day before the march, it was the Daily Mirror that led with the article “A war won’t save Britain from terror” and ran its printing press all night to make placards for the demo!
What’s the point?
Since that initial high, with StW fortuitously finding itself at the head of this groundswell of real and popular anger (polls quoted 93 percent opposed to the Iraq war – while 98 percent of ‘balanced’ BBC propaganda was pro-war), where have we led British workers? How has our relationship matured?
It has been one long downward spiral. The StW office has collected money for distribution to a crop of Trotskyite and revisionist careerist staffers, and the ‘leadership’ thus generated issued call after call to “March, protest, act!” But to what purpose, and with what effect? Resolutions passed at national congress calling for active non-cooperation have been quietly shelved, and the most banal, unimaginative and ineffectual ‘action’ has been StW’s mantra. If the tactics were aimed at losing the support of the masses, they have been pitch perfect!
The grand old 2nd Viscount Stansgate marched us up to the top of the hill, handed us over to his successor, the honourable MP for Islington North, who pinned a Labour party purple campaign ribbon to our breast and marched us firmly down again. All aided and abetted by their adulating left-sectarian groupies, who go to the length of publishing articles – apparently without shame – about their ‘special relationship’ and admiration for Labour party ‘elder statesman’ Benn: “He’s got to this age and he’s still at demonstrations with a flask and cheese sandwich.” Amazing! Would that he were not.
The mountain brought fourth a mouse! The very same party that waged genocidal imperialist war, the Labour party of ‘Bomber Bliar’, leads the anti-war movement, and has delivered it safely into the enemy’s hands. What a farce! When the Nazi party ran trade unions in Germany, did this also demonstrate Hitler’s special relationship with the working class?
Yet few seem able to comprehend that the emperor is wearing no clothes: that the Labour party is a true-blue, union-jack-waving, immigration-scaremongering, gun-boat-toting, cruise-missile-dropping party of imperialism – and that support for and membership of such a party is totally incompatible either with serving the working class, or with stopping any imperialist war.
After seven years of crisis, capitalism remains caught between the Scylla and Charybdis of its own making; between the abundant cheap goods it can produce by reducing wages, and its inability to sell this produce to the unemployed and impoverished masses; between the worker as object of his exploitation, and the worker as the consumer of his produce.
This worldwide crisis, more profound than the Wall Street crash of the 1930s, has been decades in the making, and is ruining the lives of unprecedented millions, who find their abilities, talents, and creative labour-power squandered; consigned to the scrap-heap of unemployment. A million British children go hungry each day, over a million youth and probably in excess of 8 million people of working age are unemployed.
The capitalist ‘solution’? Enormous hand-outs to (too-big-to-be) failing capitalists (no prizes for guessing who’s idea that was!), bankrupting the national treasuries, increasing taxes (for workers, while reducing tax on the mega-rich ‘economic motors’!) and reducing ‘unwarranted’ expenditure on health and education: sensible policies, for a happier Britain!
Currently the ConDem fad is more austerity on the one hand, and militarisation on the other; but let us note that decades of (Labour and Tory) Keynesianism have also failed. There is no solution under capitalism, but that will not stop them from attempting to dig their way out by increasing reliance on export of capital, backed by military adventurism to cement super-exploitation of cheap ‘third-world’ labour and looting other peoples’ resources. Britain and the US are becoming, if you can imagine it, ever more parasitic.
That is why the last ten years have seen such a relentless drive toward regional and world war. Our ‘masters’ are drowning the world in blood in order to avert the final demise of their system of production for (their) profit at our expense.
The fact is that the super rich-capitalists are totally out of their depth, and totally out of control. Our domestic woes and British imperialism’s bloody rampages abroad are two sides of the same coin; both are symptoms of the impending downfall of a senile ruling class. But they must be pushed over the precipice. Should our hand tremble? Is that not our job? Is that not the mission of our movement?
‘Unity’ with imperialism: the quaker test
Well, if by ‘movement’ we mean StW, then the answer is actually ‘No’. John Rees (SW/Counterfire Trotskyist) has at previous conferences assured the floor during debate (debate look you!) that he personally embraces these aims (of course!), but that, in order to remain ‘broad’ and quaker-friendly, he opposed StW calling for the victory of anti-imperialist forces.
Much easier (don’t you see?) to implicitly allow the victory of US and British imperialism – in the name of unity – while bemoaning the fate of their victims, calling for a better deal for our boys, fewer atrocities, etc. As for ‘bringing the troops home’, our imperialist masters plan on doing so anyway – once their missions of subjection are complete, compliant regimes are installed, stable occupations enforced and their reign of terror assured. It’s a military necessity to free up troops for the next intervention!
Rees’s infamous ‘quaker test’ is every bit as insidiously and divisively pro-imperialist as Norman Tebbit’s ‘cricket test’ is obviously and offensively so. If Rees wishes to support British imperialism, let him have the courage to say so openly, and remove his pernicious influence from the anti-war movement. No such honesty is forthcoming. Instead, it is more of the same: denunciation of the forces of resistance (they’re not socialists, they have poor ‘human rights’ records, they’re not democratic, are dictatorial …), pacifist platitudes, and simultaneous lionisation of Labour party social-imperialist saboteurs.
And it is just this opportunist leadership of StW that led to its shameful support of Nato’s bombing of Libya. A little retrospective wailing and gnashing of teeth over the 50,000 deaths and wholesale destruction of Libya’s hard-won independence and freedom will not wipe out the stain of collaboration. For at the crucial moment, Stop the War organised demonstrations in support of Nato’s war, and against the Libyan people’s resistance – on the shabby pretext of ‘opposing Gaddafi’. We shall not forgive or forget this shameful fraud and betrayal, which was the beginning of the end for StW. Libya’s enlightened society and modern industrial infrastructure yielded exemplary living standards – the highest in Africa, before the head-banging CIA and MI6-backed jihadists were forcibly installed.
No sooner had Libya fallen under Nato’s jackboot, than the same fundamentalist CIA army were transferred to their new task of causing murderous and brutal chaos in Syria – in order to generate the pretext for another intervention, removing the next obstacle on the road to total US/British hegemony over the oil and labour of the Middle East. One step closer to recolonising Iran (how we thirst for Persian oil!)
And, right on cue, in waded StW, with Rees and company’s heartfelt denunciations of ‘brutal dictator’ Assad and strident support for this ‘popular revolution’! Once more, there is not a hair’s breadth between the imperialists’ pro-war propaganda and that of the allegedly anti-war Trotskyites. Rees didn’t seem to notice that Nato’s aggression is a criminal, barbaric assault on an independent and sovereign nation. His only worry was that open Nato bombing (as opposed to the covert, proxy war via local proxies) would be “a threat to the continued progressive nature of the uprising”.
So no need to oppose the aim of Nato’s terrorists’ atrocities – forcing terrified captives to act as human bombs, massacring unarmed civilians while filming it all for the greater glory of YouTube, etc – because we all want Assad out, right? In fact, Rees and co would much rather forget all about Nato’s current war, and concentrate on denouncing the prospect of a future war with Iran – ignoring the fact that the war against Syria is an essential preliminary to that campaign!
History repeats itself – the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce! Lenin was a thousand times right when he said that “the fight against imperialism is a sham and humbug unless it is inseparably bound up with the fight against opportunism”.
If we are ever to be crowned by success, we must jettison this bunch of charlatans who parade as ‘friends of the people’ while binding our movement to the war chariot of imperialism.
Stop the wars! Fight imperialism! Join the axis of resistance!