“The government should be looking to fight the causes of wars.”Jeremy Corbyn MP
Ben Hayes, Islington North CLP & Arise volunteer, reports back on a vital Stop the War Coalition event
The Tory government has increased the UK’s stockpile of nuclear warheads, ramped up hostility to Russia, invested billions in new cyber and space-war tech and stepped up the British military presence in the Asia Pacific, all as part of its vision of ‘Global Britain’. In this context, the work of anti-war and peace campaigns couldn’t be more important and the Stop the War Coalition’s major international conference this weekend couldn’t have been more timely.
The event featured sessions on Britain’s role in the Middle East, Biden and the conflict with China, Final frontiers: the arms trade, space war and AI, Racism and Islamophobia, War and climate change plus a closing session featuring important contributions from Jeremy Corbyn and Richard Burgon.
Jeremy Corbyn began his contribution to the closing session of the conference by drawing together some of the key themes of the day, highlighting the drive to clamp down on opposition to aggressive militarism, citing attempts to extradite Julian Assange to the US, and the government’s proposed Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts, Covert Human Intelligence Sources, and Overseas Operations legislation.
Instead of fighting yet more wars and contributing to increased aggression, he argued, the government should be looking to “fight the causes of wars” and emphasising the importance of de-escalating tensions, whilst encouraging global cooperation to work for peace and human rights.
Corbyn pointed to the situation in Yemen as an example of the real catastrophic consequences of war, with thousands of children suffering not only as a direct result of bombing but from the collapse of local infrastructure, leading to a dramatic rise in malnutrition and preventable diseases. He reiterated that it was “way past time” for the British government to commit to ceasing all arms sales to Saudi Arabia (which were found to be unlawful by the Court of Appeal” and instead support a genuine peace process.
Reflecting on his speech discussing the need for a drastic change of direction in British foreign policy in the aftermath of the Manchester Arena bombing during the 2017 general election election campaign, he highlighted that media commentators and political opponents led vicious attacks on his remarks until a YouGov poll found strong public support for them, including a plurality of Conservative voters. This, he argued, showed the importance and potential of mobilising public opinion in the upcoming discussions about Britain’s place in the world.
Chairing the discussion, National Officer for the Stop the War Coalition Shelly Asquith emphasised the importance of making links between the peace movement and campaigns to defend civil liberties and the rights of asylum seekers, with huge overlap in the driving factors behind these issues.
MP for Leeds East Richard Bugon discussed the danger posed by the agenda of the government’s Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy, stating that the document was reflective of Boris Johnson in that: “it reads like it thinks it can return Britain to being the colonial master of the past, rather than addressing the real challenges our communities face”,
Burgon contrasted the government’s claims in the aftermath of last month’s budget that it faces “tough choices”: such as a pay freeze for 2.6 million public sector workers, cuts to Universal Credit and an increase of just 37p in payments for sick and disabled people, with its plans to increase military spending by £16.5 billion (with the Prime Minister boasting that Britain will have the largest defence budget in Europe and the second largest in NATO). Quoting Tony Benn, he argued that “if we can find the money to kill people, we can find the money to help them”.
The Secretary of the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs then called for a strategy to tackle the global security threats posed by climate change and further dangers to public health, rather than Tory plans to increase Britain’s stockpile of nuclear warheads. Burgon committed to continuing his support for nuclear disarmament in Parliament (pointing out that as well as being wrong on principal, nuclear weapons are of no use in countering contemporary threats such as terrorism and cyberwarfare) and opposing the drive to further wars- including any Cold War with China, which he warned the government will happily support as it further increases ties with the United States,
Closing the event, he argued that Boris Johnson’s proposals offer the exact opposite of what is needed, both in terms of denying support to communities which have been hit hard in Britain, and ratcheting up global tensions which risk undermining the “economic climate, and public health cooperation that the world needs now more than ever before” and encouraged support for the anti-war movement’s campaign to ensure that the call for peace and justice is
This ended a vital day of both.analysing the Tories; dangerous new programme of interventionism and discussing how the movement can best counter it. Activists should get involved with the Stop the War Coalition, including at a local level and through building support in your own CLP.
- See www.stopwar.org.uk for more information and to join the Stop the War Coalition.