Britain’s hard-left, “anti-war” movement the Stop The War Coalition has been forced to remove a statement its website which claimed the Islamic State are “closer” than Britain’s Prime Minister to “the spirit of internationalism and solidarity”.
The “anti-war” group – which has been under fire on previous occasions for calling for a war against Israel, as well as “standing with” Saddam Hussein – has close links to the new leadership of the Labour Party, including party leader Jeremy Corbyn himself.
The latest incident is the second such u-turn in recent weeks, and adds to the pressure on Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn to distance himself from the group. Stop The War has been highly vocal in its criticism of military action in Syria, joining with other far left organisations in openly attacking the 66 Labour politicians who voted for airstrikes against Islamic State in the House of Commons last week.
Among the 66 was the shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn, who evoked the spirit of the trades unions and socialists in joining the International Brigade’s fight against fascism in 1930s Spain, during an impassioned and well-received speech in favour of military action.
For his stance, Stop the War dubbed him “Bomber Benn” and published a blog which argued: “Benn does not even seem to realize [sic] that the jihadist movement that ultimately spawned Daesh [Islamic State] is far closer to the spirit of internationalism and solidarity that drove the International Brigades than Cameron’s bombing campaign – except that the international jihad takes the form of solidarity with oppressed Muslims, rather than the working class or the socialist revolution.”
The blog quickly drew criticism on Twitter, and was subsequently removed from the website (although it still appears on the website of the post’s author, Matthew Carr).
The Stop the War Coalition have said that Daesh are in the same vein as the International Brigades. These idiots are beyond parody.
— Matt Dent (@MatthewSDent) December 5, 2015
The government really needs to take a lead and proscribe the Stop the War Coalition as it would any other terrorist supporting organisation.
— Gary Pepworth (@garypepworth) December 5, 2015
The group was forced to perform a similar U-turn in November, when it published an article headlined “Paris reaps whirlwind of western support for extremist violence in Middle East,” the day after the Paris terror attacks which left 129 people dead.
That article insisted that there would be no Islamic State were in not for “American crime of aggressive war against Iraq”, adding: “Let’s be as clear as possible. The hellish world we live in today is the result of deliberate policies and actions undertaken by the United States and its allies over the past decades.” It was quickly removed.
Until his election as Labour leader in August, Mr Corbyn was the chairman of the Stop The War Coalition. He is now under increasing pressure to distance himself from the group.
Tristram Hunt, a former shadow minister under Mr Corbyn’s predecessor has called on Mr Corbyn not to attend a fundraiser this Friday for Stop The War. Speaking to the BBC, Mr Hunt said:
“I think they’re a really disreputable organisation and I would hope Jeremy would step back and not go to their fundraiser.
“We’ve also seen some pretty ugly comments from them about Hilary Benn and the fact Hilary Benn should be sacked, and also, actually, their comments on Islamic State, their comments about how the French almost had it coming to them.”
But Mr Corbyn is unapologetic in his support for the group, which he says have “repeatedly called it right” on military intervention.
Meanwhile the Green MP Caroline Lucas has distanced herself from Stop The War, resigning as their vice president. In a statement, her office said: “Caroline stepped back from the Stop The War Coalition a few weeks ago.
“Her busy parliamentary and constituency schedule means that she doesn’t have time to fully engage with the role of a Patron and, in light of some recent StWC positions that she didn’t support, she felt standing down was the responsible thing to do.
“Like the Stop the War Coalition, Caroline is opposed to British bombing in Syria because it will neither keep Britain safe nor help bring about a lasting peace in Syria.”