Stop the War and the authoritarian left

s_s16_RTR2Y0TVToday, the British parliament will be voting on whether or not to join the US coalition in bombing Daesh (ISIS). During the debates the British left has outdone itself – even by its own usual standard of idiocy – to the extent it makes the Tories look progressive.

Over the past few days, demonstrations have been held in London and elsewhere to oppose the UK bombing Syria. The demonstrations were organized by the Stop the War Coalition (STW), an organization which has long adopted a counter-revolutionary position on Syria. Since the start of the uprising in 2011 STW has refused to acknowledge the agency of the oppressed Syrian people struggling against a fascist regime or to support their struggle in any form, preferring to see the current conflict only through a geopolitical lens. Their selective anti-imperialism means they’ve only ever opposed Western intervention in Syria (even when this was not a reality) and refuse to actively oppose Russian or Iranian intervention. They have never called for any action against Assad or opposed the war he has waged on the Syrian people, raining down barrel bombs and targeting civilian areas with Scud missiles for over four years. It is this war which has been the main cause of civilian deaths in Syria and which has created the vacuum and desperation giving rise to Daesh. These ‘progressives’ have consistently refused to give a platform to revolutionary Syrians. They have even, shamefully, called the police to remove Syrians present at a recent meeting. Conversely, they give non-Syrian apologists for the Assad regime a voice, people such as the odious George Galloway and massacre-denier Mother Agnes.

At the demonstrations organized by STW some present were holding Baathist flags and pictures of the mass-murderer Assad. Seriously, a blatant fascist presence was considered acceptable at a protest organized by people who describe themselves as leftists. It is no wonder that their demonstrations were small (compared to the heyday of the Iraq war demos), with no large scale Syrian or Muslim presence. I am sure many who oppose the bombing of Syria would feel alienated joining a protest organized by those who ally themselves with a regime that practices torture on an industrial scale, sodomizes its opponents with broken bottles, and gasses civilian neighbourhoods. One of the speakers at the event held last Saturday, Tariq Ali (once considered a ‘radical’, so I’m told) rhetorically called for Britain to ally itself with Assad and Russia if it wanted to defeat Daesh. This was based on his erroneous claim that Russia is actually attacking Daesh, whilst the evidence shows that the majority of Vlad the Invader’s attacks are aimed at anti-Assad forces (which have also been fighting Daesh since January 2014) and civilians in areas with no Daesh presence. As for Assad, not only has he not attacked Daesh until recently (to gain international legitimacy as a partner in the ever expanding War on Terror) but has actively facilitated its growth.

Jeremy Corbyn, the current leader of the British Labour Party who has been the Chair of STW for the past four years and has now appointed the Stalinist and Putin supporter Seumas Milne as the party’s director of communications, is giving his party’s members the choice of whether to back joining the US coalition or not. To help them make up their minds he has invited Patrick Cockburn to brief Labour MPs on Syria ahead of the vote. Patrick Cockburn openly supports the fascist mass murderer Assad, has called for Britain to ally with Assad’s imperialist sponsors Russia and Iran, has consistently slandered Syrian rebels as ‘Al Qaeda’, makes shit up in his writing like pretending to be an eyewitness to massacres which likely never happened, and recommends Donald Trump’s analysis on the Middle East. Does anyone really consider these people progressives? As an anarchist, it seems to me that the statist ideologies of both left or right have much more in common with each other than any values or principles I adhere to.

As a British Syrian who opposes any foreign power bombing Syria, I cannot help but feel disgusted that these people have hijacked the debate. The only way to defeat Daesh is to give support to local forces which are engaged in the battle with them on the ground. This must include Sunni Arab forces – the population Daesh attempts to rule. Cameron was not wrong when he said there are 70,000 moderate opposition fighters in Syria. However, the idea that these forces will join a coalition fighting Daesh which doesn’t address the main threat to Syrians – the Assad regime – is absurd. As for the anti-war left, if they are to have any relevance or moral compass, they must oppose all those who are bombing Syrians, including the Assad regime and its imperial backers, Russia and Iran. Most of all, they must listen to the voices of Syrians instead of sticking to their patronizing and unprincipled stance of inviting ‘experts’ of dubious credentials speak on their behalf.

Regardless of the outcome of today’s vote, the bombs on Syria will continue to fall.


9 thoughts on “Stop the War and the authoritarian left

  1. Well said. Stop the War doesn’t just not protest against the regime crimes in Syria – it doesn’t even acknowledge them. Two months ago I spoke from the floor at an StW meeting about the Douma marketplace bombing and asked Lindsey German when I could expect to see that reported on their website. She didn’t answer my question and I am still waiting. Unfortunately the StW demonstrations were not small – they are miseducating many young people about the real meaning of internationalism, which I regard as the core principle of the left.

  2. Whilst I can but sympathise with many of the points you make, is there not a simple practical problem with more arming of rebels to remove Assad: it will just be countered by escalation by Russia and Iran and God knows where that might lead to. Even with indirect measures such as no bombing zones we are still stuck with having to deal with Putin. I don’t like him and his allies any more than you but too many anti regime commentators seem to talk as if he can be ignored for the way forward. I have no wish to push any agenda on you or anyone but what are realistic proposals to improve things that don’t involve dragging the war on or compromising with Russia?

  3. Sadly, this is not a new phenomena on the british left. During the balkan wars the (now defunct) Revolutionary Communist Party sided wit Serbian nationalism and in the 1970s early 80s, the workers revolutionary party under Gerry Healy were cheerleaders for Saddam Hussien and Iraqi baathuism to the extent that they acted as agents for saddam, photographing opponents of Baathuism at london demonstrations. Healy later went on to provide prinying facilities for the english edition of Gaddaffis green book. The wrp, of course, is now also defunct. Stop The War is a front for Counterfire a split from the terminally declining socialist workers party. It seems to be a symptom of british left groups in decline that they try to boost flagging domestic influence by appealing to external dictators.
    It is also a symptom of the decline of the left at both community and trade union level . a genuine internationalist left would have had the confidence and ability to build a sol;idarity movement with thiose in struggle. Sometghing the british left has failed to achieve since the spanish civil war.

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