Some rambling, unsourced thoughts about the Stop the War Coalition.
A recent day began with a sustained barrage of online anti-Zionism, more at lunch, an evening listening to a Palestinian ex-combatant whose daughter was killed, he believes, by the IDF and who now seeks to convince other combatants that justice is better than revenge.
After that I collared somebody who heads up his local Stop the War Coalition where he studies. He was from overseas and extremely diplomatic and these two facts alone was enought to make me pause for thought. What, he doesn’t bark out slogans or quiver with rage at the mention of Israel? He’s not in StWC because he’s riddled with misplaced post-colonial guilt? Clearly I’m in danger of stereotyping these people. He cited Kipling and the white man’s burden as an influence for his quite undogmatic anti-imperialism. He didn’t have anything to say on Burma but he did allow that there could be grounds for intervention in the affairs of another state. He was looking broadly to engage Muslims in StWC but he wanted to be able to discuss things like the treatment of women, observing that it was Galloway’s move to the right which had ended RESPECT. He said that Israel was not a big issue and that in fact it never came up in StWC meetings before its affiliation with End the Siege – this is interesting though, because what about the 2006 ‘We Are All Hesbollah Now’ march? And regarding said march with said placards he denied central coordination and observed that when you’re in a coalition the only people you detests more than the ones you oppose are the ones you have to work with. He wished they were all like him, but they weren’t. He was very sanguine. I asked him what he meant by imperialism and he seemed surprised. I asked him if he had read the work of Lenin on the subject – he had not. Nor did he know what a ‘Eustie’ was and he blanked on Democratiya. But all the same I felt bad and even guilty about my strong antipathy to StWC.
I haven’t read the Lenin either, but broadly speaking he was on about the imperative towards a monopoly as the ultimate form of capitalism. StWC see what’s going on in Iraq and Afghanistan as symptoms of imperialism. They perceive in the huge profits of Haliburton the super-exploitation of the world’s poor countries. They see Iran as resisting the US rather than harbouring its own independent aspirations to power. Eustonians see things differently as democrats versus authoritarians. The US shoring up of Siniora’s ‘Western-backed’ government against Iranian interventions can be seen in the context of Iran’s bad record on democracy and human rights. StWC doesn’t criticise Iran – only the US, the UK and Israel. What StWC sees as imperialist tactics on the part of the US, the Eusties view as an opportunity for democracy and stability to the region, and – yes – trade. Trade after all is a distinctly un-ideological (or at least unprejudiced) activity. A healthy activity.
Anyway I had a look at the SWP and it’s front’s Stop the War sites today and it wasn’t good. StWC referred to the Iraqi government and put ‘government’ in inverted commas. In the light of the Baathists’ rule, these inverted commas are an insult to Iraqi people who voted. The Socialist Worker gleefully reports on Hesbollah’s activity in Lebanon, calling them the ‘anti-US resistance’, and implying that the government is trying to undermine Lebanon’s ability to fight Israel. In fact Hesbollah won’t participate in democratic politics, and for them to expect that they can squat in Lebanon, is – how to put it – highly irregular. Also on the SWP site we have ‘Israel – created by terrorism‘, which is a one-sided and inflammatory anti-Zionist piece about the Nakba which misses out the pre-existing Jewish population, the Arab Revolt or the Holocaust.
So, a cruddy coalition full of beautifully-intentioned people? If you have to keep shrugging your shoulders at your fellow coalition members because they’re embarrassing and worse then there’s probably a good case for striking out with a smaller group. Because thoughtful as the man was, I think it’s sensible to place more stock in a coalition’s web site and the web sites of the constituent parts than an individual you meet at a talk. I’m willing to talk about anti-imperialism but screw Stop the War and its negative agenda.