by New Worker correspondent
HUNDREDS of peace activists packed the main conference chamber of the TUC headquarters in Bloomsbury on Saturday 6th June for the Stop the War conference “Confronting a World at War”.
Topics debated included war and austerity, Palestine, civil liberties, Saudi Arabia, Latin America, the United States’ “Pivot to Asia”, Africa, scrapping Trident, Ukraine, imperialism and ISIS, the military industrial complex and migration and war.
A powerful array of speakers made presentations and led the debates. They included veteran peace campaigner Bruce Kent, Mustafa Barghouti, general secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative, Explo Nani-Kofi, a campaigner for African self-determination, leading US peace activist Medea Benjamin, Lindsey German, Kate Hudson, Andrew Murray, anti-racist activist Lee Jasper, Chris Nineham, writer David Edgar, Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell, journalist Seumas Milne, pro-Venezuela activist Matt Willgress, George Galloway and many more.
The conference was opened by Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn, who won a tremendous applause for his decision last week to stand for the leadership of the Labour Party on a promise to combat austerity.
In the opening plenary session Bruce Kent called on all peace activists in many different organisations to work together “in parallel” using a range of different tactics and strategies towards a common goal.
Lindsey German, who is the convenor of Stop the War, warned of the pernicious and dangerous measures taken by the Government in the “War on Terror” – now calling on primary schools to monitor what very young children are saying to each other. She recounted an instance where one child from a Muslim home was reported for telling fellow pupils that Father Christmas was not real – and thereby undermining British culture!
In the discussion session on Palestine Mustafa Barghouti spoke of the imperialist destruction of Middle Eastern states “one after another”.
And he spoke at length of the increasing success of the BDS – boycott, disinvest and sanction – campaign against the brutal and genocidal oppression of the Palestinian people by Israel.
He said the Israeli economy is now really being hit by this campaign as Israeli exporters lose contract after contract due to customer pressure through boycotting Israeli goods, especially those produced on occupied Palestinian land.
The Israeli government and its supporters are crying anti-Semitism but this is belied by the growing numbers of progressive Jewish people around the world who are supporting the BDS campaign.
In a session on “Zombie Imperialism: The Return of the Neocons” American peace campaigner Medea Benjamin spoke of the American police war against young Black people, the increasing numbers of war veterans joining the peace campaign and the new remote control weapons like drones that allow the US military to kill people by remote control.
Jeremy Corbyn spoke of the development of the role of Nato after the fall of the Soviet Union, when the ostensible reason for the existence of Nato had disappeared.
He said the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia rescued Nato by giving a new role and it has since gone on to intervene in the Middle east and all around the globe and is encircling Russia and China with hostile military bases.
In the session on the conflict in Ukraine writer David Edgar gave an account of the two conflicting left and right-wing narratives of what had happened there.
From the floor RMT member Alex Gordon, speaking on behalf of Solidarity with Antifascist Resistance in Ukraine, countered this, pointing out that there is an underlying objective reality of what is really happening – that open Nazis are now in positions of power in Kiev and that the people of Donbas and Lugansk are really being bombed and shelled by the Kiev regime.
Academic Richard Sakwa spoke against Nato intervention in Ukraine but claimed that membership of the European Union would bring economic stability to Ukraine and overcome the corruption of the ruling oligarchs.
From the floor, Daphne Liddle challenged this assertion, pointing out the effect of EU membership on another weak economy: Greece. She said the economic bail-out package offered by the EU and IMF would require even more drastic austerity measures than in Athens, measures that could not be forced on the population except with a fascist government – and that the population of Ukraine had been divided over EU membership with a small majority opposed to it, with good reason.
George Galloway addressed the final plenary session, along with Jeremy Corbyn, Mustafa Barghouti, Medea Benjamin, Lee Jasper and Chris Nineham. Galloway gave a rousing speech in which he warned the conference that US imperialism has “unleashed the Anti-Christ” on the modern world.