|Volume 51 Number 6, February 20, 2021||ARCHIVE||HOME||JBCENTRE||SUBSCRIBE|
The Stop the War Coalition pamphlet No Return to Blair Wars - a Reply to Open Labour released on February 10 and written by Lindsey German and Andrew Murray opens with a foreword by Jeremy Corbyn. The former Chair of Stop the War and former leader of the Labour Party recalls the terrible consequences of the invasion and continuing occupation of Afghanistan after 20 years carried out by the former Labour government of Tony Blair in support of the US. He says in supporting the pamphlet: "Andrew Murray and Lindsey German have the benefit of a consistent and honest track record in opposition to war. They were part of the foundation group of the Stop the War Coalition in 2001 and have jointly written this pamphlet to ensure we do not descend into another bout of interventionism, and then pretend the consequences are nothing to do with the original military action." He points out in conclusion: "The Stop the Coalition has been a crucial and democratic voice for both peace and soli darity for the last twenty years. It has succeeded in changing the dial in so much public debate. Its future success will be an end to the idea that armed intervention accompanied by nationalistic rhetoric, greedy arms companies and a thirst for natural resources bring anything other than untold numbers of victims in their wake."
The authors in their introduction say: "Here we aim to briefly refute the main arguments of the Open Labour authors. We rebut the allegation that our opposition to regime change wars means alignment with the regimes targeted for removal; recall the actual record, behind the rhetoric, of the wars of intervention of the last thirty years; examine the recent changes in the world balance of power; defend the importance of anti-imperialism as a political orientation; expose the hypocrisy of the alternative advocated; and sum up the foreign policy choices facing the next Labour government. We hope to ensure that the apparent course set by Starmer and Nandy does not go uncontested. These issues should be debated throughout Constituency Labour Parties and the trade unions, as well as the Left and society more generally. This pamphlet is a contribution."
The authors refute the ridiculous claim that the anti-war movement is "campist" and simply aligning itself with foreign powers, or with other countries who are victims of regime change by the Western powers. They say that if you count opposition to "imprisonment, the death penalty, torture, lack of civil rights, war crimes against innocent civilians" then the credit would go to the grassroot campaigns that Harry Pitts and Paul Thompson say are stuck in the past and not to these warmongers who intervene for regime change claim the issue is "human rights". "None of this fits with a narrative which pays lip service to human rights but denigrates those who fight for them and who have to stand up to an increasingly authoritarian British government in doing so."
In fact, the pamphlet devotes a whole chapter on the appalling life loss and destructive record of "humanitarian intervention" over the last 20 years. Not least in Afghanistan, where "the US maintains a military presence there despite repeated promises that it will withdraw, and most importantly the population lives in one of the most dangerous and poorest countries in the world".
The final chapter of the pamphlet affirms that "anti-imperialism matters". This is essential to the outlook of Stop the War and to "underline the point, Starmer's Shadow Minister for the Middle East and North Africa, Wayne David MP, welcomed the [Open Labour] pamphlet and urged the Party to drop its 'obsession with anti-imperialism'."
The authors in their conclusion say: "Let us say first of all, this is a very British position. In most of the world, the world held captive to one empire or another for generations, anti-imperialism is a core political value. But blindness to imperialism and its consequences, including the view that the Empire was on balance a good thing, is baked into the British political system.
"Historically, it has been baked into the Labour Party too. Labour's leadership down the generations generally supported first the Empire, then the neo-imperialist alliance with the USA, with only the minimum of ethical equivocation. In this respect, Tony Blair was an extreme example, but not entirely an outlier.
"However, we start from our political tasks in Britain, which sits at the heart of the US-led world order. We remain 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.
"This is now urgent. As noted above, there are tasks that require immediate collaboration regardless of other considerations - climate change, arms control and supporting refugees among them. Imperialism makes these issues harder, but it does not preclude the possibility of progress. In StWC our specific mission is stopping war. There is nothing more important. Great power rivalry caused first two world wars and could cause a third."
The full pamphlet can be accessed from the Stop the War Coalition
As a result of the overwhelming response and debate provoked by No Return to Blair Wars - A Reply to Open Labour, the Stop the War Coalition has decided to host an online launch event where the authors will speak and answer questions on the topics discussed in the pamphlet.
The meeting is free to attend.
Start: Wednesday, March 10, 2021 " 7:00 PM " Greenwich Mean Time : Dublin, Edinburgh, Lisbon, London (GMT+00:00)
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