This article first appeared on openDemocracy
An open letter to the Leader of the Labour party from concerned Labour party members, Momentum activists and socialists. To add your name, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
We write as members of the Labour Party and Momentum, as socialist activists, or as other supporters of your leadership of the Labour Party. We agree wholeheartedly with your opposition to militarism and nuclear weapons, and your call for an end to British arms exports to countries such as Saudi Arabia. Yet we are concerned by your silence – thus far – on the ongoing slaughter of civilians by Russian and Assad-regime forces in Syria.
We share your scepticism about kneejerk military responses to the situation in Syria, such as the bombing campaign against ISIS proposed by David Cameron last autumn. We are not asking you to back Western interventions of this kind, but simply to say clearly and unequivocally that the actions of Assad and Russia in Syria are barbaric war crimes, and that you will seek to end them, and to hold their perpetrators to account.
We applaud your efforts, over decades, to end the crimes of brutal regimes supported by Western powers. But we do not believe that this exhausts the duties of anti-imperialists, socialists and peace activists in Western countries. The fact that Assad is supported not by the USA or Britain, but by Russia and Iran, does not make his crimes any less horrific, or the political future he represents for the people of Syria any less dismal. Nor does it mean that Western political leaders are powerless in acting to oppose these crimes.
We know only too well that there are those in the anti-war movement who will denounce any move critical of Russia, Iran, or Assad as tantamount to support for Western imperialist intervention. We also know that there are those on the right of British politics who will claim any such move as a concession to their policy of militaristic grandstanding. The debate on Syria has been polarised between these two positions – scrupulous “non-intervention” in the face of massive carnage enabled by Russian intervention, versus support for bombing campaigns as part of a Western “war on terror”. We have all been asked to take up a position in these terms. But the terms are false.
We appreciate your concern not to lend support to right-wing calls for fruitless bombing campaigns. But in the face of the horrors being perpetrated across Syria, with impunity, and above all by Russian and Assad-regime forces, we believe socialists and anti-war activists cannot simply look on in silence. We ask that you condemn, clearly and specifically, the actions of Assad and Russia in Syria, which have caused the overwhelming majority of civilian deaths and which present the biggest obstacle to any workable solution to the Syrian crisis.
We also urge you to lend your wholehearted support to practical measures to support civilians and pressure the regime to end its attacks, such as airdrops of aid to besieged civilians by British military forces. Guaranteeing delivery of humanitarian aid to civilians is not only a way to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people at risk of disease and starvation. It is also a non-violent and humanitarian way to pressure the regime into a negotiated political solution to the conflict, by undermining a key part of its strategy: the “kneel or starve” campaigns deployed against opposition areas since 2013. “Food not bombs” should be the rallying cry, not “Hands off Syria”, which only gives the Assad regime and Russia carte blanche to continue with their slaughter.
Failure to act on this issue now threatens to undermine practically and politically much of the work done over many years by the anti-war movement. The legacy of yourself and the anti-war movement over Syria must not be one of silence and inaction in the face of such momentous atrocities.
Peter Hill, Oxford University UCU Hon. Secretary (personal capacity), Oxford and District Labour Party and Momentum
Mark Boothroyd, Unite Health National Industrial Sector Committee (personal capacity), Camberwell and Peckham CLP
James Nowlan, Labour Party and Momentum member
Luke Cooper, academic and campaigner
Andy Forse, Oxford Labour Party, Momentum National Committee
Roland Rance, Jews Against Zionism, founder member of Palestine Solidarity Campaign
Mike Rowley, Labour City Councillor for Barton, Sandhills and North-East Headington (Oxford)
Adam Ramsay, journalist
Chris Fox, Wimbledon CLP, Thee Faction member
Christopher Roche, Bath UCU Vice President (personal capacity), Bath Trades Union Council President (personal capacity), Bristol West CLP
Becky Boumelha, Labour Campaign Against Prevent
Ashley Inglis, member of the Labour Party and Stop the War Coalition
Mark Price, Labour Party member, Momentum member (Welsh Labour Grassroots) and Community Councillor for Croesyceiliog
Chris Strafford, Communications Officer, University of Manchester UNISON
William R Rolfe, Labour and Momentum member, Branch Secretary PCS Revenue and Customs South East Valuation Branch
Bill MacKeith, member of Labour Party, Momentum, National Union of Journalists
Liz Peretz, Labour Party and Momentum member, Oxford
Padraic Finn, Brent Stop the War
Lisa Dempster, Unison Knowsley branch and National disabled members committee, Momentum member
Patrick Murphy, NUT Executive member for West Yorkshire
Merlin Gable, Monmouth CLP
Andy Wilson, Hackney CLP
Steven Ellis, Streatham CLP
Alison Lord, Walthamstow CLP
Tony Aldis, Labour Party and Momentum member
Kris Stewart, Socialist activist
Neil Rogall, member of rs21 and UCU
Brian Parkin, member of rs21 and UCU, University of Leeds
Tom Cutterham, Labour Party, Momentum and UCU member, University of Birmingham
Miriyam Aouragh, academic and campaigner
Bethan Jones, Labour Party and Momentum member
Max Leak, Labour and Momentum member
Gary Budgen, Walthamstow CLP
Tom Travers, Labour Party member
Sam Doherty, Manchester Momentum
Kat Burdon-Manley, rs21 member, Unison
Emily McDonagh, Unite
Christopher Ford, Walthamstow Constituency Labour Party
Edd Mustill, Liverpool Riverside CLP and Momentum member
Tom Harris, Lewisham West and Penge CLP, Lewisham Young Labour
Christian Hill, Socialist Activist
Phil Vellender, Hackney Labour Party, UCU HE member, Senior Lecturer
Tom Davies, Walthamstow CLP and NUJ member
Les Hearn, Holborn & St Pancras CLP, NUT member
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