“We have to choose”

Andrew Murray of the Stop the War Coalition has responded to the open letter from Labour Friends of Iraq by attempting to smear the organisation:

This is a group established to campaign in support of Blair’s Iraq strategy, and against the StWC. A glance at its website will show that it is less a friend of Iraqi labour than a friend of the British government’s occupation policy. The devastation of Fallujah, the killing of Iraqi civilians by the US forces (19 last weekend alone) and the fact that US-British troops are, according to the Iraqi government, responsible for two-thirds of civilian deaths in Iraq are among the issues these “friends of Iraq” ignore. Their initiative is supported by leading pro-war campaigners like Nick Cohen and David Aaronovitch, and MPs who have backed the government throughout like Meg Munn and Wayne David.

As well as being inaccurate (many LFIQ activists were anti-war, including some of their parliamentry supporters like Harry Barnes MP) Murray’s letter avoids the content of LFIQ’s criticisms of StWC and hopes that labelling them pro-war or pro-occupation will be enough to keep his troops in line. But most people aren’t, not even supporters of StWC, that dumb.

As the Marxist group, Workers Liberty point out: During the Cold War, the Communist Parties would often seek to dismiss condemnations of the repression of independent labour-organising efforts in the USSR and Eastern Europe by saying that those condemnations came from right-wingers and supporters of Western governments. STWC is continuing the same shameful method of argument.

Which, given that it is Communist Party of Britain hack Andrew Murray making the arguments, is hardly surprising. Plus ce change….

Workers Liberty concludes its article on the crisis in the StWC with this:

We have to choose. If we take the negative cause of “giving the USA a bloody nose” as paramount, then we will see the militias to be the liberation movement, and the Iraqi trade unions to be outright “Quislings” or at best an unimportant group whose destruction, if regrettable, is a reasonable price to pay for the triumph of the liberation movement. If the positive causes of freedom and power for the Iraqi working class, and freedom and democracy for the peoples of Iraq, are paramount, then the Iraqi labour movement is the liberation movement, or the potential liberation movement, and we stand with it against the Islamists.

Britain’s trade unions took a decision to support the Iraqi labour movement at the TUC in September 2004, and should follow it through. Whatever good work the STWC did in organising anti-war marches in 2003, if it has now become a movement primarily concerned to support the Islamist militias, at the expense of the urgent task of helping the Iraqi labour movement then trade-unionists and socialists should direct their energies elsewhere.

Galloway’s sick attempt (see post below) to portray the murderers as anti-fascist heroes and their victims as Nazi-style quislings will merely hasten the collapse of the StWC. Even Stoppers like John Harris don’t buy that.

Decent opponents of the war in Iraq, those who marched with the StWC on the big Feb 15 march probably because they were appalled at the idea of innocent people dying, don’t want to be associated with what has become a Supporters Club for Ba’athist and Islamist death squads.

There is nothing ‘sectarian’ about exposing the politics of the StWC nor is to do so to engage in squabbling or ‘faction fighting’. These are fundamental issues.

Nor does choosing sides between democrats and fascists in Iraq involve a reappraisal or repudiation of your position on the invasion. Backing democrats and oppossing fascists need not involve a volte face or mean that you support Bush or Blair or everything that is involved with the occupation. It just means you are pro-democracy and anti-fascist (or if you choose otherwise, vice-versa).

For two years we have been arguing here that the decent voices in the anti-war movement should have refused to be lead by totalitarians and refused to allow the likes of Murray. Galloway and the SWP to speak ‘in their name’.

Now it looks like many are doing just that. About time too.

Update: Harry Barnes MP has responded to Murray’s letter.