The stakes are high, but with enough pressure from below, David Cameron's plan to bomb Syria can be defeated
We have the biggest opportunity since the start of the Iraq war to make a real change in foreign policy. The aggressive, interventionist policy that has done so much damage is now at the heart of a great contest in British society.
Jeremy Corbyn is facing a massive onslaught from all sections of the establishment. No one can envy him this experience, and the prime question is how we defend him from these attacks and build support for the policies that got him elected as Labour party leader with such a huge majority.
When the right wing is this hysterical, the establishment this panicked, and the media this vitriolic, you know there is just a chance something good might be in reach.
In the next few weeks and months there are going to be a series of stand-offs around foreign policy issues, including almost certainly a vote in parliament on bombing Syria, the outcome of the Iraq war inquiry report, and of course the madness of renewing Trident.
Few mainstream commentators have the wherewithal to understand Corbyn's victory. They first speculated about left-wing entryism, then they focussed on his 'style', now they've decided to ignore the scale of his mandate.
Of course Jeremy is different, he wears jumpers and shockingly he tends to say what he thinks. But whatever the media would like to think, his success is not about the way he does what he does, it is about the issues he has brought to the forefront of British politics.
The real nightmare for the establishment is that millions of people agree with him about austerity, about war, and about the shocking state of official politics.
What alarms the mainstream is the energy and enthusiasm generated by his campaign to become leader of the Labour party, much of it due to the protest movements that he has supported so tirelessly over decades, including crucially the anti-war movement.
A return to protest
But if the Corbyn surge was powered partly at least by the movements, we have to make sure that what he has achieved in turn reinvigorates protest.
We know that Corbyn can’t do it alone. And we know too that there are a lot of people around him who -- to put it politely -- don’t agree with him. Within days of his leadership victory, there were very public briefings against him by a serving UK army general, two of his cabinet 'colleagues', including the shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn, and Sadiq Khan, Labour's newly selected candidate for London mayor.
Quite simply, Jeremy Corbyn is going to need all the help he can get.
It is clear also, that despite the disasters of the last fourteen years, the British political establishment is desperate to maintain its role as chief cheerleader for US military interventionism. And having scented rebellion against Corbyn among Labour MPs, they have a new confidence about winning a vote to bomb Syria, and at the same time damaging the party's anti-war leader.
A plan of action: stopping the bombing of Syria
The main task must be to extend the enthusiasm and energy generated by his campaigning over the past months into every local community, workplace and college.
The more people are actively engaged in the campaign to stop the drive to war in Syria, and in the anti-austerity movement, the more we will be defending Jeremy Corbyn under such relentless attack.
How can we do this?
For the anti-war movement, we need to get onto the streets in every area and onto campuses with leaflets, petitions, posters, badges, etc, drawing people into an ever-widening network of activists for peace.
We need to re-invigorate local anti-war groups and start new groups where none exist. While organising locally, the untimate focus will be on parliament and the need to break the consensus that always takes Britain into disastrous wars on the coat tails of the United States.
In 2013, mass pressure on MPs, coupled with the memory of Tony Blair's catastrophic war on Iraq, delivered an unprecedented defeat for the government, as David Cameron tried to bounce parliament into supporting the bombing of Syria's Assad regime.
Now Cameron hope that by switching the target to ISIS, he can reverse that defeat and take the UK into yet another pointless war that will serve no purpose, other than to create more death and chao, and drive more refugees to flee the war zone.
We need to implement immediately a comprehensive lobbying of MPs:
- Use the online lobby tool to contact MPs
- Send letters to MPs' constituency offices
- Get letters in local newspapers
- Organise group visits to MPs' regular surgeries to deliver petitions collected locally
There needs to be a particular focus on MPs who have vowed publicly to defy Jeremy Corbyn, so they understand the scale of the opposition to waging war in Syria.
War and the refugee crisis
The links between the refugee crisis and the wars our government so enthusiastically backs need to be underlined continually in our campaigning.
It is scandalous that David Cameron thinks promising to take twenty thousand refugees over five years is an adequate response to the migration or 60 million people fleeing war, coflict and poverty.
It is also outrageous that he wants to respond to people fleeing war-torn countries by intensifying the bombing of Syria -- one of the main causes of the crisis.
The most effective thing that the West could do to end this misery is to de-escalate, stop arming regional dictators and aggressors and encourage a negotiated settlement in Syria. We need to develop and promote these arguments everywhere.
Isis is clearly a horrible organisation whose presence makes our arguments harder. We have to tackle the debate head on by having the most high profile possible public meetings and forums we can in each area..
A plan of action: the anti-austerity movement
Stop the War has always contrasted the vast government expenditure on the military and weapons of mass destruction, and the draconian austerity cuts to public and welfare services. Billions are spent on the UK war machine at the same time that brutal cuts in benefits are driving some desperate victims to suicide.
The protests at the Conservative Party conference from 3 October will help shape the political landscape over the next months. Tens of thousands will be protesting there, not just on the opening day – 4 October - but for the whole week. The anti-war message needs to be heard loud and clear by the movement, by the media and by the politicians.
Time is tight -- the flashpoints are imminent, and we need to act now.
Within a few days of Jeremy Corbyn becoming Labour leader over 120 new members joined Stop the War Coalition, an indication that the movements that underpinned his victory are recognised as central to defending him.
The stakes are high. With enough pressure from below, David Cameron's government's plan to bomb Syria can be defeated for a second time, which would be a long term humiliation for the warmongers.
We also need a big campaign and protest over the scandalous delay in publishing the Iraq war inquiry report, blocked it appears by those -- like Tony Blair and Jack Straw -- likely to be criticised by Chilcot. With Jeremy Corbyn declaring that Tony Blair should be held to account for alleged war crimes, there is a real prospect that Blair could be driven out of public life once and for all.
Next year parliament will vote on the renewal of Trident nuclear weapons system, at a projected cost of over £100billion. The Campaign for Nuclear disarmament is already mounting a concerted campaign to get MPs to vote against. A huge protest movement before parliament votes will intensify that pressure.
The moment a vote on bombing Syria is announced, Stop the War will call a protest, but the success, the scale, and the impact of that protest depends on what we all do in the next few weeks. Its up to us.
Chris Nineham is a founder member of Stop the War and Counterfire, speaking regularly around the country on behalf of both. He is author of The People Versus Tony Blair and Capitalism and Class Consciousness: the ideas of Georg Lukacs.
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