About a hundred Stop the War activists gathered outside BBC Broadcasting House on Saturday to protest against a possible conflict with Iran. They were the usual ragbag of idlers, dreamers, misfits and malcontents. Many of these people are unable to grasp the illogicality of their political positions. A chap selling the Socialist declined to give me a copy for free.
‘In future everything will be shared,’ I said, ‘so start with this paper.’
‘I’ll share it with you,’ he smiled, ‘after you’ve shared your pound with me.’ I paid up and pointed out that the transaction had merely strengthened capitalism. ‘No, it’s building a system that will overthrow capitalism.’
A Marxist asked me to sign a petition in support of ‘anti-Trumpists’ in America. I told him I believed that Britain shouldn’t meddle in other countries’ affairs.
‘Isn’t that the point of the march?’
‘We’re not meddling,’ he said.
‘You’d obviously like to.’
‘The point is the Democrats aren’t strong enough to fight Trumpism.’
The crowd set off for Trafalgar Square, with their numbers strengthening as they moved down Regent Street. They waved placards and chanted political nursery-rhymes through loud-hailers:
‘One! Two! Three! Four!
No to Trump, and no to war.
Five! Six! Seven! Eight!
Stop the killing, stop the hate.’
In Trafalgar Square they occupied less than half the central area. Total numbers? Three or four thousand perhaps. Several speakers warmed up the crowd, including Unite chief of staff Andrew Murray. One speaker called Soleimani’s death ‘an act of terror’, whose purpose was to ‘save Trump’s skin’ during the upcoming impeachment process.
Is that true? If so, which Republican senators offered to support the president on condition that he vaporised an Iranian warlord?
A similar argument was peddled by former Respect leader Salma Yaqoob. ‘We know they want to bring on this war,’ she said.
Stop the War gave the impression that it wanted the war to start because a conflict would boost its status and make its doomster predictions come true.
The prize for the day’s most contradictory speech went to Steve Hedley of the RMT. He sneered at Trump as a ‘draft-dodger’, seemingly unaware that the avoidance of military service is considered a high virtue by anti-war activists. He offered few words of support for the nine Ukrainian airline staff killed by the Iranian regime, even though his union represents Rail, Maritime and Transport workers. And he finished with a call to arms. ‘No war but the class war,’ he shouted, failing to realise that the purpose of Stop The War is to stop wars. And if he really wants a ‘class war’ he should confront the members of his railway union who divide passengers into ‘standard’ and ‘first’ class.
Next up, veteran activist Tariq Ali, who always carries himself with immense distinction. His thick white hair and raffish moustache were offset by a pair of sunshades which gave him the air of a dictator-for-life. He made a short speech and then introduced the headline act.
‘Jeremy Corbyn is here,’ he panted. ‘He has arrived. Welcome home. We need you here.’
Corbyn approached the mike with a tartan scarf flapping around his neck. The crowd had already struck up a cry of ‘oh Jeremy Corbyn’ which always sounds like a mourner’s dirge. But he was in no mood to indulge his worshippers by letting their song ring out across the square. He cut them off and plunged into his speech:
‘Friends, thank you all for being here today to be the voice for peace that is desperately needed in this country and all around the world.’
He offered the feeblest condemnation of Iran for destroying a passenger-jet:
‘Let’s recognise the horror of the families of those that died in the airliner are suffering from now...This is an appalling act and part of a whole pattern of appalling acts all across the region.’
Moving onto generalities, he urged the British government to support ‘democracy, international justice and human rights around the world.’
He sounded like Miss United Kingdom expressing her hopes for mankind at a beauty contest. He then delivered a plea for world peace in almost indecipherable prose:
‘Let’s make this year’s nuclear non-proliferation review conference, at the beginning of May, a real one – for once – where we recognise the potential power of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty to end the proliferation of nuclear weapons and help to bring about nuclear disarmament around the world.’
Hardly a candidate for the Dictionary of Quotations.
The sad truth about Stop the War is that their goal – to halt western adventurism in the Middle East – is an excellent one but they speak only to the grumble-bunnies of the far-left who loath prosperity and who long for an anti-capitalist revolution. With better leaders, Stop the War could win the argument.