The Null Device
Phil Doré was a member of the Stop the War Coalition, the group which organised huge anti-war protests in the UK; then he left the group and now runs a website on what's wrong with it. In short, the coalition is run almost entirely by hard-line totalitarian leftists like unreconstructed Stalinist George Galloway. Their ideology seems to be that anything goes as long as it's against Western capitalist liberalism; thus they give uncritical support to anti-Western totalitarian dictators like Saddam Hussein, ally themselves with Islamic fundamentalist groups (something any moderate socialist, let alone liberal progressive, would find alarming), and pulled a bait-and-switch on the thousands of moderate Guardian-reader types who came to their rallies, promising opposition to a war but handing them banners praising anti-Israeli suicide bombers. Doré's site (and the abbreviated Butterflies and Wheels article distilled from it) talks about Britain's StWC, but from what I heard, the US and Australian organising groups like ANSWER are similarly riddled with reprehensible ideologues.
This conjunction of the SWP and the MAB led to the STWC drawing a clear link between war in Iraq with Israel/Palestine. At protests such as those on February 15 th 2003, middle-of-the-road liberals who had turned up to voice their disquiet at a reckless military adventure in Iraq were bemused to find themselves being handed placards that said not just Don't Attack Iraq or Not in My Name but also Freedom for Palestine. The MAB in particular seemed to be giving out almost as many Freedom for Palestine as Don't Attack Iraq placards. The Socialist Alliance went further, subtitling their Freedom for Palestine placards with the words Victory to the Intifada, at a stroke turning middle-class Guardian readers into standard-bearers for suicide bombers.
A look at the list of names on the Stop the War Coalitions steering committee gives an idea of the scale of the takeover. The chair is a man who thinks that people shouldnt whinge about Stalin's careless slaughter of 20 million people (Andrew Murray). The convenor is a member of the Socialist Workers Party, an organisation that advocates the overthrow of democracy and its replacement with a dictatorship of the proletariat (Lindsey German). Of the Vice-Presidents, one is a man who thinks that the indiscriminate murder of Iraqi civilians can be likened to the French resistance in World War Two (Tariq Ali). Another spent the 1990s condemning Saddam's regime when he was in London and sucking up to it with a nauseating sycophancy when in Baghdad (George Galloway MP).
As another bomb goes off, slaughtering a few more Iraqi policemen or another crowd of Shia pilgrims, theres something very distressing about people like Tariq Ali and John Pilger actually welcoming this. When such figures suggest that these brutal and indiscriminate killings may lead to democracy and social justice, as Tariq Ali has (1), then one is left wondering whether to laugh or cry. You might as well hope that the BNP will take over the Equal Opportunities Commission and set about improving race relations.
Anyway, the site has a wealth of insightful and balanced criticism of the radical left's arguments, from their Intifada-good-Israel-bad take on the Palestinian issue to their support for the Iraqi "people's uprising" (which, surprisingly, isn't as popular with the Iraqi people as one would think after reading the Green Left Weekly). He signs off with a 7-step programme to rehabilitating the protest movement and saving it from the clutches of the paleo-Marxist ideo-zombies.
1. Communism is obsolete. Get over it.
2. Follow universal values. Instead of cheap partisanship and outdated revolutionary ideals, one should follow humanistic principles based on democracy, tolerance, respect for human rights and concern for ones fellow human beings. The key is the principle of democracy. Be wary of anything that smacks of condoning violence. Theres nothing more dangerous than an idealist with a gun.
3. Apply the same rules to everyone. This is important, because its necessary to be consistent in the application of ones values. Opposing the brutalities of the Israeli occupation of the Occupied Territories does not mean ignoring the indiscriminate slaughter of the Palestinian suicide bombers. Likewise, its perfectly possible to condemn racism against Muslims while also criticising the narrow-minded religious bigots of the Muslim Association of Britain and condemning the theocratic fascism of al Qaeda, the Taliban and the Iranian ayatollahs.
(One could add a meta-rule to this: beware of people who think in binary dualisms; that you must either be a Trotskyist or a neo-con, that you're either a hardline likudnik or you're cheering on the suicide bombers, that you're either with the gang of thugs torturing prisoners in Abu Ghraib or the gang of thugs blowing up civilians in the Fedayeen "resistance"; that you're either With Us or Against Us.)
(via Peter, who has his head screwed on the right way.)