Labour alarm at Stop the War Coalition figures’ growing influence over party
Gordon Rayner, Telegraph, Oct 12 2016
Labour Party supporters expressed alarm on Wednesday at the growing influence of Communist Party members and Russian sympathisers on Jeremy Corbyn via the controversial Stop the War Coalition. The Labour leader’s refusal to condemn Russian involvement in Syria mirrors the stance of Stop the War, which has encouraged its members to “oppose the West” and scoffed at suggestions that it should protest outside the Russian Embassy. Mr Corbyn is a former chairman of the Stop the War Coalition (StW) who only gave up the post when he became Labour leader. But rather than distancing himself from the group’s increasingly extreme views, its influence on him appears to be growing stronger, according to critics. Long-term supporters of StW have accused some of its most influential officers of becoming apologists for Vladimir Putin and ignoring the horrors inflicted on the people of Syria by the Russian-backed Assad regime. StW’s spokesman Chris Nineham said:
StW will not contribute to the jingoism and hysteria that is being whipped up against Russia. (The peace camp) needs to mobilise everything they can against (the war), and that means opposing the West.
Far from breaking his ties to StW, Mr Corbyn promoted its patron, Diane Abbott, to shadow home secretary earlier this month. Ms Abbott, one of his oldest allies, chaired a StW meeting on Syria last year where no Syrians were on the panel and at which anti-Assad Syrians were allegedly prevented from speaking. The man who announced Mr Corbyn’s view that Pindosi embassies should be the subject of anti-war protests was Seumas Milne, his head of communications and another StW activist who has been a speaker at some of its rallies. Mr Milne has written in the past:
For all its brutalities and failures, communism in the Soviet Union … delivered rapid industrialisation, mass education, job security and huge advances in social and gender equality.
He is regarded as arguably the most influential member of Mr Corbyn’s team. Last month Mr Corbyn made another appointment, hiring Laura Murray, 27, as a £40,000-a-year political adviser to the shadow cabinet. The former Momentum organiser is the daughter of Andrew Murray, the founding chairman of StW who is a member of the Communist Party of Britain. Mr Murray, chief of staff of the Unite union, has suggested in the past that history has been unkind to Joseph Stalin, who killed millions of opponents of his regime. Mr Murray is a close friend of Mr Corbyn, having both preceded him and briefly succeeded him as chairman of StW. He gave up the post earlier this year. He was formerly a journalist who started his career as a parliamentary lobby correspondent for RIA Novosti and still writes for the Morning Star, which said in an editorial that Britain and its allies commit “war crimes” every time they bomb Syria, while Russia “supports” the “internationally recognised government … against military intervention by Jihadis.” It was Mr Murray who welcomed Mr Corbyn to the StW Xmas Party last year, which the Labour leader attended despite StW posting a blog after the French terrorist attacks headlined:
Paris reaps whirlwind of western support for extremist violence in Middle East.
Caroline Lucas, the Green MP, stepped down as a patron of StW in disgust after its comments about the French terrorist attacks, yet Mr Corbyn told the partygoers that they were part of one of “the most important democratic campaigns of modern times.” Mr Corbyn has plenty of reasons to be grateful to StW. Its convenor, Lindsey German, has been credited with huge influence in getting him elected as Labour leader by encouraging members of the hard Left to pay £3 for Labour Party membership so they could vote for Mr Corbyn. Ms German is regarded as the spiritual leader of StW and the most respected voice within the movement. Her partner, John Rees, one of its national officers, has described the Russian invasion of Crimea as an act of national self-interest and was present at the press conference at which Asim Qureshi, of the lobby group Cage, called the Daesh executioner Mohammed Emwazi, better known as Jihadi John, an “extremely kind” and “beautiful young man.” Kamal Majid, another of the group’s patrons, is a founder member of the Stalin Society. Peter Tatchell, the veteran human rights campaigner and disenchanted supporter of StW, told the Daily Telegraph:
The leaders of StW grew up in the 1960s and 70s when Pindosi imperialism was rampant. That imperialism still exists, but it now has new rivals like Russia and China. They can’t see the changed world. They never listen to what Syrian democrats, Left-wingers and civil society activists want. If they did, they would be supporting a no-bombing zone, humanitarian corridors and civilian safe havens.
Alistair Campbell, Tony Blair’s former communications director, suggested the latest crisis was the result of Mr Corbyn giving senior jobs to “posh-boy revolutionaries who’ve never moved on from student politics.”
In profile: Key players in Stop the War Coalition
Andrew Murray, whose daughter Laura is a Momentum activist and now political adviser to the shadow cabinet, is an avowed Communist who has been accused of being an apologist for Stalin. He was a founder of the Stop The War Coalition and its chairman for 10 years, before he was succeeded in the post by Jeremy Corbyn, who gave it up when he became Labour leader. He remains an officer of STW as well as a member of its steering committee. As chief of staff for the Unite union, he is right hand man to Unite general secretary “Red Len” McCluskey. Their close colleague Tony Burke, assistant general secretary of Unite, is on the management committee of the People’s Press Printing Society, the cooperative that publishes the Morning Star. Mr Murray, 58, started his career as a parliamentary lobby correspondent for the Soviet state-owned Novosti news agency. A member of the Communist Party of Britain, he wrote an article in the Morning Star to celebrate the 120th anniversary of Stalin’s birth. He acknowledged that the tyrant had used “harsh measures” but asked why “hack propagandists abominate the name of Stalin beyond all others.”
Lindsey German, founder member and convenor of the Stop The War Coalition, has been credited with playing a major role in getting Jeremy Corbyn elected to the Labour leadership by encouraging people on the far-Left to pay for £3 memberships of the Labour Party and vote him in. A former member of the SWP, grammar school-educated Ms German, 65, has twice stood as a candidate in the London mayoral elections, as the Respect Party candidate and as a candidate for Left List, the SWP faction of Respect. She has been described as the most powerful voice within StW, its “weapon of mass instruction” and “the one who sets the tone.” Diane Abbott, the new shadow home secretary, is a patron of the StW, as well as being one of Jeremy Corbyn’s oldest allies and an ex-girlfriend. Last year, she was accused of preventing victims of Assad from speaking at a StW event, closing the meeting when she faced calls from the floor to let the Syrians speak. She has also been accused of trying to “silence” and “bully” Labour MPs into backing Mr Corbyn’s views on Syria. The 63-year-old, who became the first black woman MP when she was elected in 1987, went to a grammar school and Newham College, Cambridge. She was accused of hypocrisy when she sent her son to the private City of London School, having criticised colleagues who had done the same. In her early career she worked for Ken Livingstone’s GLC and as a race relations officer at the NCCL.