Saturday, 15 October 2016

Words not deeds: why won't Stop the War's critics take to the streets?

Another day passes without those who apparently want to protest at the Russian Embassy actually calling a protest outside the Russian Embassy.

It was on Tuesday that British foreign secretary Boris Johnson berated the Stop the War Coalition - a coalition dedicated to opposing British foreign policy - for not doing what the British foreign secretary would like it to do. A flurry of commentary, echoing Johnson's rhetoric, has predictably followed in the British press.

Protests are what they want, right? So why don't they call a protest? Why do they instead pour scorn on Stop the War Coalition for not calling such a protest?

If an organisation is not pursuing the aims you would like it to, stop bleating about it and do something yourself. Launch a campaign. Call a protest.

So, why aren't they? Why are the Freedlands of this world whinging repetitively about other people not doing what they want, instead of actually doing something themselves?

Three reasons:

1) They know that such a protest would in fact lend support to the drive to escalated Western intervention in Syria. They can claim it wouldn't - as Jonathan Freedland does - but deep down they know better than that.

The context is inter-imperialist conflict over Syria. Therefore a protest at the Russian Embassy in London would become useful propaganda for US/UK military intervention.

2) They are not actually interested in doing anything useful. Their interest is instead in smearing anti-war voices. It's the age-old trick of painting anti-war activists as in league with the enemy (in this case Russia).

The aim is to get lodged in public consciousness the idea that Stop the War and Jeremy Corbyn are essentially apologists for a foreign regime, and thus not sufficiently patriotic to shape British foreign policy. And of course it's the threat of Britain's second party of government (Labour) adopting a foreign policy that's independent of US imperialism that really terrifies them.

3) They know they would be branded hypocrites. Many of these people were supporters of previous interventions. Even those who opposed the invasion of Iraq are likely to have supported the disastrous interventions in Afghanistan or Libya (or both). Many of them backed the vote for bombing Syria last December.

Stop the War has repeatedly called it right, while these people have got it wrong. In opposing a further escalation of foreign intervention in Syria, Stop the War is again getting it right. More bombing is no solution for the besieged and suffering people in Aleppo.

This is a slightly edited version of an article first published on Counterfire.


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