|Volume 51 Number 6, February 20, 2021||ARCHIVE||HOME||JBCENTRE||SUBSCRIBE|
Fight for An Anti-War Government!
Twenty years after the then Labour government, led by its Prime Minister Tony Blair, took Britain to war in invading and occupying Afghanistan, the present Labour Party under its new leader Keir Starmer is again discussing in its leadership circles what many call global "humanitarian interventionism" under the guise of protecting "human rights". This is the same fraudulent claim that Blair used for military intervention on behalf of the US warmongers in the former Yugoslavia, and one of the main arguments for its "war on terror" in Afghanistan and Iraq. The disastrous consequences of death and destruction for the peoples of those countries and the world are well known. The consequent ongoing refugee and other serial tragedies on the people of those countries continue to this day. In other words, "humanitarian interventionism" is the use of military force by one state against another, under the veil of the pursuit of high ideals. The "responsibility to protect" (R2P) has also been used to describe such a doctrine. It has no basis in international law, and is prima facie in contravention of the UN Charter.
In the 2020 review of Labour's international policy, the Labour Party's International Policy Commission, whose members are drawn from the party's National Policy Forum, the Shadow Cabinet and the National Executive Committee, has published an interim report , which claims that "this is a moment when Labour must decide on its future foreign policy on the basis of a more fundamental reconsideration of the UK's role in the world than has taken place since the Second World War". The document recognises that the present government's interventionist policy is "facilitating a fundamental shift of Britain's place in the world", but complains that its "albeit in a manner that lacks an apparent overarching strategy".
However, there is very little to see in this interim report other than some perverse arguments that attempt to nullify many of the points in the response to quoted submissions from party and other organisations . The real strategy that the Labour leadership is pursuing has been revealed by the vindictive attack against the Stop the War Coalition, and what is described as Corbynism, most recently expressed in a pamphlet published by Open Labour - A Progressive Foreign Policy for New Times . Open Labour claims that it represents "Labour's open Left: a practical, open-minded and tolerant type of democratic socialism". It was formed in 2015 in response to the election of Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour leadership contest . This latest pamphlet was launched with the participation of Labour's Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy, and subsequently reportedly endorsed by another member of Labour's foreign affairs front bench team.
The pamphlet, written by Frederick Harry Pitts and Paul Thompson, seeks to challenge the "intellectual and organisational remnants of Corbynism", in order to "resurrect an ethical and internationalist foreign policy for new times". It will be remembered that an "ethical foreign policy" was the brainchild of Robin Cook, who oversaw British interventions in Kosovo and Sierra Leone, before resigning as Foreign Secretary in 2003 over Tony Blair's decision to launch the invasion of Iraq. The pamphlet claims that "the danger is that the legacy left behind by Corbyn's anti-imperialist equivocation will continue to obstruct the necessary reorientation long into the tenure of the new leader". A fine choice of words - "anti-imperialist equivocation"! More is revealed about this when the authors are forced to admit that the Stop the War Coalition "whilst being right about the invasion of Iraq" bemoans that it led to an anti-war movement "that defeated the Cameron government's plans" for strikes against Syria in 2013, "a defeat that forced President Obama to rethink his own plans for action". It then tries to recuperate the Labour Party's rotten tradition of military intervention when it immediately says, "Owen Smith, in his unsuccessful pitch for the leadership [against Corbyn], extolled Labour's 'internationalist tradition of intervention'. Only Nandy among the last set of leadership contenders offered any substantial attempt to recuperate this tradition."
The veil of this tradition and of Blairite intervention is then dropped completely when the authors enthusiastically speculate on the election of US President Joe Biden. They criticise the presidencies of Obama and Trump in which "a world in which the US withdraws from wielding soft and hard power, as we have seen in recent years, has the potential to wildly unravel, and Biden will likely need encouragement to re-engage that power when feasible and justifiable in defence of human life and rights". Wielding soft and hard power to violate the sovereignty of nations and assert the dictate of the imperialist system of states led by US imperialism was a feature of the Bush presidencies, and was also a feature of the Blair years, in which Britain plc was also to be made great again under the aegis of the United States, and intervening globally in furtherance of Anglo-US interests. The use of the terms "soft power" and "hard power" appear to be making a comeback in the vocabulary of the cartel parties. The terms tend to be used in connection with whipping up anti-China and anti-Russia hysteria, rather than setting out a coherent policy. Nevertheless, in the Open Labour context it is being used to revive bankrupt big power ambitions on the part of Britain. The authors of Open Labour's pamphlet state that "ultimately, under any leadership right or left, the US remains the indispensable partner in any wider attempt to reconstruct the rule-based international system and counteract the expansion and influence of Chinese authoritarianism, Russian aggression and jihadist terrorism, among other issues. At the same time, however, one thing is certain: the US is most likely to take the UK seriously where its voice is amplified in concert with our European partners and their institutions." Reconstructing the rule-based international system, where Britannia waives the rules, is a recipe for implementing "might makes right".
The authors of the pamphlet attempt to impose all kinds of spurious theories on their opponents, and even make insults to sully the names of all those, especially the leaders of the Stop the War Coalition, who have stood up against war over the last 20 years. What they cannot hide is the reality that what they are saying is not new at all but a rehashed imperialist foreign policy alongside the US in "humanitarian interventionism" confronting China and Russia. It is indeed to continue Britain's role as a retrogressive force for intervention and war alongside the US and EU powers and supported at the heart of the new Labour Party leadership. That is the overarching strategy, if it can indeed be called such.
In an obscene display, it also falsely misrepresents the name of Nelson Mandela on the cover of the pamphlet. Nelson Mandela did not endorse Labour's warmongering policy but opposed it. The points he made to the Labour Party conference in 2000 "marvelled at that generosity of spirit capable of reaching out" from the labour movement in its support of the struggles of the Anti-Apartheid struggle in his country and cannot be interpreted as support for Britain's military intervention in Afghanistan a year later, or anywhere else. South Africa was not part of the US, British and NATO countries that invaded Afghanistan, nor is South Africa a member of NATO.
In an introduction to the pamphlet, Alex Sobel MP and Professor Mary Kaldor try to dress it up as the new, as a "rights based" international order and that "human security is about the security of individuals and the communities in which they live rather than about the security of states and borders [our emphasis]" Thus by sleight of a hand the real defence of the rights of all, which includes the rights of nations and their borders to sovereignty, is denied whilst enabling the big powers including Britain to cross borders and carry out "regime change" against the will of those peoples with the excuse of alleged "human rights" abuses. This is the so called "new" international policy that the Labour Party is talking about in coded phrases.
Workers' Weekly congratulates the Stop the War Coalition and its leaders on their anti-war stand over the past 20 years, which the new Labour leaders along with the Westminster consensus are desperate to try and eradicate. According to these cartel parties, this stand should be excluded from their Party system and Parliament so as to pursue their warmongering agenda. The Stop the War Coalition in their pamphlet  refute these positions, and their experience shows that they are right to conclude that "we start from our political tasks in Britain, which sits at the heart of the US-led world order". They conclude that Britain "remain(s) more closely aligned with Washington's policy than almost any other power. Our anti-imperialism must therefore start from here. Britain is part of one imperial bloc, and that is the one we need to challenge in our effort to give the country a new direction in world affairs."
Those political tasks in Britain are also revealing the necessity to fight for new arrangements in which the working class and people with their own independent programme make the decisions and increasingly limit the power of the big global oligopolies, including the arms industry who wield so much control over the Party system and Westminster and the pro-war agenda. This is a fight taken up for solution, with the perspective that new forms of governance have to be brought into being that give a new direction to society and to world affairs and bring about an anti-war government in Britain.
1. Labour Party National Policy Forum - International
2. Though admitting "many submissions received on the issue of Palestine, where members voiced their concerns that international law and human rights were at risk of significant violation," the report said that this was only a matter of "consistency". When Unite the Union submitted that the Labour Party should pursue "an independent foreign policy", it stated that policy "must prioritise de-escalating these tensions, and pursuing peace, global co-operation and international law as not only the most ethical path but the one that will also deliver the best security for our citizens, country and our future." The report claimed from this that submissions "recognised the threat posed by a rapidly changing and destabilised world, and the need for the UK to prepare strategically for a range of emerging threats at home and overseas."
3. Open Labour - A Progressive Foreign Policy for New Times
4. Wikipedia states: "Open Labour is an activist group operating within the Labour Party. Open Labour operates as a forum for Labour Party members to discuss ideas, tactics and campaigning in the soft left political tradition, which the organisation hopes to recast as the 'open left'. Within the party, Open Labour is generally positioned to the right of internal left-wing groups like Momentum and to the left of New Labour groups such as Progress."
5. No Return to Blair Wars - a Reply to Open Labour