8 February 2022

In siding with Putin, far-left ‘peace’ activists have shown their true colours

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Vladimir Putin’s regime invaded Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014, and has illegally annexed Crimea. It has in addition launched cyberattacks against both these states and against Estonia, shot a civilian airliner out of the sky, and conducted a brutal war through proxy forces in the territory of Donbas. It has now amassed 100,000 troops on the Russian border with east Ukraine, with no conceivable military utility except to intimidate and invade.

Who is the aggressor here? Why, the United States, of course.

That answer is perverse and preposterous but it’s one you will always find in the political netherworld occupied by Britain’s self-styled peace movement. Consider their dismal catechism.

A statement by the Stop the War Coalition titled ‘No to War in Ukraine’ concludes: ‘We demand that the British government and the Labour Party distance themselves from the policies and priorities of the USA and develop an independent foreign policy.’

Kate Hudson, general secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), writes on the organisation’s site: ‘NATO’s refusal to rule out membership for Ukraine is provocative and destabilising. Dialogue is essential to resolve these issues – war is not the answer.’

It is futile to point out to these groups that the sole party threatening war is the Kremlin, and that a sovereign state such as Ukraine has the right to determine its own alliances. Ms Hudson was for a long time a member of the Communist Party of Britain, which declares its solidarity with, among others, the totalitarian nightmare-state of North Korea. I once debated with her on Sky News about Britain’s nuclear deterrent, and pointed out that as she is by ideological conviction an ally of tyrants it’s hardly surprising she’s less alarmed by their acquisition of a nuclear-weapons capability than the rest of us.

The Stop the War Coalition is not really a coalition at all but a monolith. It was set up in the wake of the 9/11 attacks to campaign against the Western democracies pursuing and punishing the perpetrators of those grotesque atrocities. A prominent influence in its founding, and ever since in its campaigning, is the Socialist Workers Party, which urges the overthrow of parliamentary democracy and the destruction of Israel. This depraved Leninist sect infamously covered up allegations of sexual assault committed by a leading member in 2010.

Nor is Stop the War even against war. It is pro-war, committed by the other side. That’s the only legitimate inference from its habitual siding with dictators and aggressors against democratic states. And the same is true of the rest of the purported peace movement. CND may have had a substantial input from religious denominations as well as communists in the 65 years of its existence but it can’t escape the logic of its position.

As George Orwell pointed out in his essay ‘Notes on Nationalism’:

“Pacifist propaganda usually boils down to saying that one side is as bad as the other, but if one looks closely at the writings of younger intellectual pacifists, one finds that they do not by any means express impartial disapproval but are directed almost entirely against Britain and the United States. Moreover they do not as a rule condemn violence as such, but only violence used in defence of the western countries.”

The proof of this insight can be found in every conflict, and in every generation, that involves the interests – not even necessarily the direct engagement – of the Western democracies. And the aggression perpetrated by the Putin regime exemplifies it. Though it has a population of more than 40 million, Ukraine is still a small country by comparison with Russia. And its nationals are being oppressed within Ukrainian territory by Russia. In Crimea, Ukrainians are forced to adopt Russian citizenship or be made stateless, jobless and destitute.

There is a means of stopping war. It is containment and deterrence. That has been the mission of Nato since its founding in 1949. It is the most successful liberation movement in history, having prevented an assault by Soviet totalitarianism on Western Europe, and eventually helped free the captive populations of Eastern Europe by the force of example in protecting a better, freer and more prosperous way of life. In ensuring collective security of democratic states, Nato is the true peace movement.

On a personal level, I find it pleasing, or at least merciful, that there is cross-party support in Britain for the cause of Ukraine. I’ve almost always voted Labour, which in government under Clement Attlee was instrumental in creating Nato, and in aiding free trade unions and democratic parties behind the iron curtain. Its postwar history is one of resolute support for the Western alliance. Yet this lamentably wasn’t the case under Jeremy Corbyn, a former chair of Stop the War who defended the organisation even during his disastrous titular leadership of the party.

For that wing of politics, the rights of small nations and threatened peoples are always dispensable, or even maligned as somehow reactionary. This has been a consistent theme in the peace movement’s apologetics for aggressive war in Europe. The genocidal campaigns of the Milosevic regime in Serbia against Bosnian Muslims and Kosovan Albanians in the 1990s were stopped by Nato air strikes, which were inevitably depicted by the peace movement as aggressive acts.

A generation later, Ukraine is in danger. It is not a member of Nato and poses no threat to anyone. It needs military aid, especially in the form of anti-tank weapons. And its cause should command the support of free peoples, democratic states and progressive causes everywhere. And as ever, those in the West who most loudly declare their support for peace are nowhere to be seen, except as propagandists for aggression, xenophobia and despotism.

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Oliver Kamm is a columnist and leader writer for The Times.

Columns are the author's own opinion and do not necessarily reflect the views of CapX.