By James Bloodworth
There are good reasons to oppose almost every war waged by the British government. If pacifism is not exactly the honourable tradition it is made out to be (someone has ultimately to defend the weak from the strong) scepticism is. Even on those rare occasions where the government appears to be acting militarily for the greater good, there is usually some base motive buried under it all. For all David Cameron's talk about democracy and human rights, he is often happy to pay homage to brutal dictators in the name of UK trade and investment.
But there are bad – as well as good - reasons for opposing the use of military force. The increasingly misnamed Stop the War Coalition (StWC) epitomise the bad. They don't so much oppose war as believe in the defeatist idea that the interests of the world's poor are furthered every time liberal democracy in some part of the world suffers a setback.
In fact we now find ourselves in the bizarre situation where being 'anti-war' means being pro-whomever it is Western powers plan to fight. This is not to slander those principled people who really do oppose all violent conflict, but rather it is the conclusion any sane person must draw from a glance at the StWC
Stop the War are often wrongly painted as pacifists. But the leaders of Stop the War – Lyndsey German and John Rees – are former members of the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party. Unlike pacifists, Trotskyists do believe in the use of violence to achieve political ends. Importantly they also believe that the 'main enemy is at home' (a quote from a pamphlet by the German socialist Karl Liebknecht in 1915.) In practice this means that a foreign government, however despotic, is always preferable to the lackeys of Western capitalism (nowadays 'neo-liberals') that hold power in places like Britain, even if the latter are democratically elected and the former are not.
In recent years, the Stop the War Coalition has defended Russian aggression in Ukraine and Georgia; has barred Syrians from speaking at its meetings while giving the floor to debased British Assadists and Stalinists; and have sided firmly with the Ayatollahs and the Ba'athists ahead of democrats and genuine anti-imperialists in the Middle East. In the wake of the Paris attacks the StWC even compared ISIS to the Spanish Brigades.
Disgraceful certainly, but until recently it mattered little. There is no need for protest groups to be ideologically pure, as long as they are effective at communicating their central message. But until August the Stop the War Coalition was led by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn stepped down from chairing the group after being elected leader of the Labour Party, but he still appears to be closely involved and plans to attend the group's forthcoming Christmas fundraiser.
Through its continued association with the leader of the Labour Party, the Stop the War Coalition has an unprecedented opportunity to pollute the minds of impressionable young socialists and activists with its unspoken ideological mantra that an enemy of the West must always be a comrade of the left. A detestation of Western politicians can be a sign of intellectual vigour; but when it translates into a hatred of democracy and a sordid admiration for despotism it is as rotten as a decaying tooth.
If Jeremy Corbyn wants his proclamations about peace to be taken seriously, he should disassociate himself from the increasingly repugnant – and by no means anti-war - Stop the War Coalition.
James Bloodworth is the former editor of Left Foot Forward and is currently writing a book for Atlantic. You can follow him on Twitter here.
The opinions in Politics.co.uk's Comment and Analysis section are those of the author and are no reflection of the views of the website or its owners.