In a debate in Parliament, the British foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, recently asked why the UK's only 'anti-war' organisation the 'Stop the War Coalition' (SWC) hadn't condemned Russia and the Assad regime's attempted annihilation of Aleppo. Johnson further asked why the SWC hadn't organised a demonstration outside the Russian embassy.
The fact that it takes Boris Johnson to ask these questions of a supposedly 'left-wing' anti-war group is itself telling. The SWC was set up by a host of different 'leftist' anti-war forces to oppose British involvement in the Iraq war. In this capacity, the group was successful in terms of serving as a mere banner for millions of people who opposed the war in the UK, but it was never supposed to be a mere politically neutral banner.
The group was controlled at the leadership level by a host of far-left and left-wing forces and personalities, ranging from the Trotskyite Socialist Workers Party and the Stalinist Communist Party of Britain to Labour left types such as George Galloway, Tony Benn and, of course, current Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
The SWC always carried with it a particular view of the world, one born of traditional left politics but mostly associated with Stalinism. This worldview is often referred to as 'campism', which essentially means that these political forces sided with the Soviet Union, which was seen in differing degrees as the camp of 'world socialism' or merely as a counterpoint to the camp of the always greater evil of US and 'capitalist' imperialism. In practice, this simply meant that these forces supported the totalitarian monstrosity that USSR and apologised for its crimes – depicting all of its enemies as stooges of Western imperialism.
In the post-Soviet era, the SWC retains its Manichaean opposition to so-called US imperialism, while it attaches itself to any particular force that it sees as being opposed to US imperialism, no matter the crimes and the ideology of the force in question – this means Assad's Syria, Putin's Russia and the Iranian regime.
Take, for example, SWC spokesman Chris Nineham's interview on BBC radio following Johnson's calling out of the group over its silence over Aleppo. Nineham is a member of a cult-like SWP splinter group called Counterfire whose leaders are also the leaders of the SWC, and a leading member of which serves as an aid to Corbyn's leadership. In the interview, Nineham claimed that the SWC condemned not just Russia but all foreign interventions into what is now a disastrous... situation for the Syrian people... but we were set up as a coalition as a response to 9/11 and in response to the Western, British drive to war back in 2001 and that is our focus'.
The SWC has, at every step, sought to demonise the rebels and portray the Assad regime and its allies in a favourable light.
This gets to the heart of the SWC's worldview. If your focus is only on 'Western intervention', as Nineham says it is, then when there's a situation where 'Western intervention' is not the main evil, you're essentially washing your hands of the whole affair.
But combined with this deeply conservative, selective and isolationist worldview is the SWC's active hostility to the Syrian revolution. In fact, it's of some irony that it was Boris Johnson who took the SWC to task for its lack of care regarding Russia's attempted annihilation of Free Aleppo. Just in December of last year, Boris Johnson was himself arguing that Britain ought to 'deal with the devil' and 'work with Putin and Assad in Syria', but you'd expect that of a right-wing realist conservative, while in March this year he had a column in the Telegraph with the headline 'Bravo for Assad'.
Far from Ninheham's claim that the group 'condemns' Russia intervention in Syria, I'm surprised that the SWC didn't republish Johnson's articles or invite him to speak at their conferences, given that Johnson's previous call for the UK to work with Putin and Assad has been popular among the SWC ranks. It has been echoed by its leading figures, such as SWC vice-chairman George Galloway on his show for Russian propaganda service RT, as well as founding member and patron of the SWC Tariq Ali, who, during a rally for the group in November 2015, argued that the UK 'should be fighting side by side with Assad and the Russians'.
The SWC has, at every step, sought to demonise the rebels and portray the Assad regime and its allies in a favourable light. Following Assad's gassing to death of over a thousand Syrians at Ghouta, the SWC, a supposedly objective anti-war group, immediately published an article denying Assad's responsibility.
Along with this, it rallied to the defence of Assad by holding 'Hands off Syria' demos due to the remote threat of the US and UK carrying out strikes against Assad's war machine. Unsurprisingly, not one Syrian was on the platform and, in the same week as we saw Syrian children convulsing to death on hospital tables due to Assad's sarin attacks, the SWC saw fit to use Ba'athist flags to publicise their demos.
Following on from this, the SWC decided to invite the pro-Assad nun and firm supporter of Assad's war effort Mother Agnes to its annual conference, with no pro-revolution Syrians on the platform to counter her poison. Thankfully, after a campaign by pro-revolutionary Syrians and others, the SWC reluctantly dropped Mother Agnes. However, most interestingly, 'national chair' of the organisation during this time was one Jeremy Corbyn.
Russia is committing genocide in Syria, pulverising Aleppo and deliberately targeting hospitals and civilian areas.
And this is the most disturbing element of the SWC and its counter-revolutionary, pro-fascist politics – they are now essentially reflected at the highest levels of the Labour Party. The current leader of the party, Jeremy Corbyn, is a founding member of the SWC and continues to speak at their conferences.
One must never think that Corbyn has somehow forsaken their politics - on the contrary, as we've seen since he's been leader of Her Majesty's Opposition, he's elevated these monstrous politics to new heights and, most dangerously, allowed them to have concrete influence on people's lives.
The Russian government reacted to Johnson's call for protests outside the Russian embassy by accusing him of 'Russophobia' – this is a very old tactic used by Russia to deflect from its crimes. But Corbyn and the SWC followed suit. Corbyn issued a statement following Johnson's comments calling for protests outside the US embassy and claiming that the 'focus' on Russia's crimes was a 'deflection'. One ought to really let the meaning of his statement sink in.
Russia is committing genocide in Syria, pulverising Aleppo and deliberately targeting hospitals and civilian areas. Its ambition is to destroy the Syrian rebels and cleanse liberated civilian areas, murdering as many Syrians as it must in the process. Those who want to protest and take action against this are, according to Corbyn, a 'deflection'. In his worldview, the real crime is the much lesser deaths caused by US intervention against Isis – the Russian-led genocidal counter-revolution, the hundreds of thousands murdered, the millions ethnically cleansed, and the millions facing brutal sieges, do not exist in Corbyn's mind.
Added to this, you had Corbyn's key ally and Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry on Channel 4 News using Assad's ethnic cleansing of Homs as a potential model for Aleppo. She also acquiesced to the raison d'etre of Assad and Russia's collective punishment by repeating the fascistic lies that the problem is not Russia, Iran and Assad attempting to annihilate the liberated areas of the city, but rather '900 jihadis in Eastern Aleppo'.
The British government at least rhetorically condemns the Russian-led genocide in Syria, while the allegedly 'left-wing' opposition seeks to justify it and dismiss those who stand against it. Either way, no one will help the people of Aleppo or Free Syrians in general.
The politics of the SWC is triumphant.
Sam Hamad is a Scottish-Egyptian writer based in Edinburgh. He specialises in Middle Eastern affairs.