As the war drums starting beating ahead of next month’s US election, Stop the War convenor Lindsey German notes a renewed urgency and sense of purpose for the movement
Last weekend's Stop the War conference was a big success. It attracted around 700 people who came together to discuss the wars which have raged for 15 years across Asia and the Middle East. It contained people who were involved in Stop the War from the very beginning, as well as young people from very diverse backgrounds. Speakers included trade union representatives, international guests, and campaigners over drones and nuclear weapons and of course the Leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn.
However, any report of the conference should note the behaviour of a small number of campaigners who are in favour of further military intervention in Syria. They heckled and shouted at different points throughout the day and caused significant disruption. These pro-intervention campaigners, the majority of whom were not Syrians, were determined to attack Stop the War and Jeremy Corbyn in particular for supposed 'appeasement' of the Syrian regime.
Even their language reproduced that of the pro war liberal interventionists, who constantly try to justify their failed interventions with appeals to fight against a supposed new Hitler.
They object to Stop the War because we refuse to support military intervention, whether through bombing, troops on the ground, or militarised no fly zones, as this will only make the situation worse. We condemn all bombing, whether from Syria, Russia, the U.S. or the UK, since the victims of such actions are the ordinary civilians. The consequences of bombing and intervention have not only been devastation for the peoples concerned but the growth of terrorism and far greater instability.
Those who jostled Jeremy Corbyn on his way into the conference and then heckled and tried to shout him down were people who had earlier been able to speak at the conference and who had ample opportunity to get their views across. They were silent in the final session through a number of other speakers, until Corbyn appeared when they did their best to disrupt and prevent him from speaking.
The purpose of such behaviour was to attack Jeremy Corbyn in order to advance their own political agenda. Their behaviour was of course seized on by a right wing press which does nothing to report anti-war events but uses this behaviour to further attack the campaign and the Labour leadership. The people who benefit from such attacks can only be those who want to continue the madness of 15 years of war.
This was the latest in a series of disruptions by the same pro-interventionist group: a previous conference was disrupted, a meeting in the House of Commons was disputed, our demonstration last December against air strikes in Syria was physically attacked with the intention of taking over the front banner, even our fundraising dinner subject to a picket. At least one of the pro-intervention protestors on Saturday has links with the discredited government funded Quilliam Foundation and with the neocon Henry Jackson Society.
This action was not about supporting the Syrian opposition or individual Syrians, but about calling for yet more western intervention. Those taking part have of course the right to attempt to try to change government policy on this issue, however much we disagree with them. But one might have thought that would entail protesting to the government, not to the people who have spent so long campaigning against all wars.
As national convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, Lindsey was a key organiser of the largest demonstration, and one of the largest mass movements, in British history.
Her books include ‘Material Girls: Women, Men and Work’, ‘Sex, Class and Socialism’, ‘A People’s History of London’ (with John Rees) and ‘How a Century of War Changed the Lives of Women’.