This policy was passed by Left Unity’s national conference on 14-15 November 2014.
We Have a Vision: International-Socialist Aspects
There is a long tradition of left-wing engagements with the international emerging especially in the decades before and after World War 1. The keynotes of policy were identification with workers and workers’ organisations abroad, opposition to autocratic government and imperial seizures and wars, and the defence of small nations. The same period saw the growth of anti-war and pro-peace movements in which women, many newly enfranchised, often played the key part. Both sides of this gender-related inheritance are recognised and developed here.
The socialist-internationalist aspects hinge on our critical analysis of global capitalism in its contemporary neo-liberal form. As our founding conference agreed ‘there are no national solutions to the problems that humanity faces.’ As capitalism is a global system, so our politics and solidarities must be international. The 1970s crisis of capital led to two main capitalist strategies. The first was the extension of market relations to social tasks previously provided through the national or local state. This involved a rolling programme of privatisation. Everything in theory could be turned into a commodity, bought and sold, by ‘consumers’ themselves or through contracts with commissioning bodies dispensing (our own) public funds. We are seeing the takeover of social and the destruction of the post-war social-democratic settlement. The second strategy, often described as globalisation, is to remove all barriers to the movement of capital, whether in the form of labour, land, resources, or markets. The (disastrous) deregulation of finance was a key feature. Globalisation and the imposition of markets extend and deepen the wage system, so enlarge the working class and increase the precariousness of labour.
Neo-liberal policies are backed by most international agencies such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF)), World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the European Commission (EC) and enforced through international agreements such as General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). When however it comes to paying for sovereign debt, which the failures of banks have forced on states, international agencies overrule the states, insisting on austerity measures that hit the working classes, and shunt aside democracy.
The United States established its position as the imperial guarantor of free market capitalism for its own corporations at the end of the Second World War. It still has this position through the US dollar as the international reserve currency and through the ambition of ‘full spectrum (military) dominance’ of the world. Increasingly NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) can be seen as being the military wing of neo-liberalism, and its expansion in Eastern Europe as major threat to peace.
This US led imperial hegemony is neither unchallenged nor complete. Since the end of the Cold War the world has become more multi-polar in ‘great power’ and ‘intermediate power’ terms, while opposition to the neo-liberal project is also becoming global: anti-war movements, movements for democracy and civil rights and struggles over capital’s seizure and misuse of limited planetary resources. Unexpected checks confound imperial ambitions – in the Middle East for instance. Our own policies must not repeat the imperial delusion that ‘the west’ is the only agency that counts. We need to grasp local conditions too.
The Contribution of Peace Movements
Contemporary anti-war movements have been the sharpest expression of popular dissent against Blairite, neo-Conservative and Coalition foreign policies and their imperialist character. They oppose the subordination of the British policy to US military dominance. They have assumed an unprecedented scale and taken many different forms: from huge street demonstrations (Iraq and Afghanistan) to smaller focussed protests against nuclear weapons, drone wars, American bases, NATO and the arms trade. Most recently they resisted the first threats of adding attacks from NATO to the sufferings of the Syrian people.
‘Not in Our Name’, however, has been part of a wider mood of war-weariness and of scepticism about costly military adventures, especially while people are made to go hungry and homeless at home. This wider anti-war consciousness is ambiguous and perhaps quite volatile. To be against war, even against imperialist war, is not a whole international policy. Recent months have also seen a sustained attempt to reverse anti-war feeling – through conservative commemoration of World War 1, through new NATO expansions and the heightened conflict with Russia, and through finding further ‘demons’ in the Islamic world. This is why we need to connect anti-war protests to a developed international policy.
This connection is important too for Left Unity. Peace has long been a focus for the political activity of women from all social classes and different political persuasions. Women consistently poll as more anti-war (and anti-nuclear) than men. Peace movements have been more innovative in their campaigning than most socialist groups (so far), alive to the importance of culture, symbol and meaning, and the subjective aspects of politics, including the importance of trust, person-to-person respect, and of the connections between war and violence and particular forms of masculinity. Anti-war campaigning has also been a way of bridging persistent ethnic gulfs in British politics. It has linked secular-minded campaigners with members of religious communities. Above all peace movements recognise that war is peculiarly destructive of human life, the environment, homes and the means of making a living.
The influence of the UK’s imperial past continues to act as a dead hand on state policies, people’s consciousness and how the rest of the world views us. Despite the swing to peace, and differences in Scotland and Wales, the official nation-state, including the monarchy, remains militaristic and hierarchical, while society and culture themselves are deeply formed by empire and slavery.
Displacing this legacy is one of Left Unity’s major tasks. It involves changes in culture, state institutions, and conceptions of national identity as well as what is usually called ‘foreign policy’.
We must shift away from military alliances, imperial ambitions, preparations for war and the construction of enemies and towards cultural dialogue, cross-national solidarities, the critical recognition of our own imperial history and the development of more just international institutions. We oppose the military adventures of the British ruling class and seek to develop international policies that promote the interests of the working class internationally through diplomacy, peacemaking, human development, greener adaptations, protection of the planet and its species, and the struggle for economic justice.
1. Left Unity does not call, or campaign for, British withdrawal from the EU, particularly given the racist and xenophobic campaign against the EU being conducted by UKIP and the Tory right. We are pro-European internationalists and are therefore opposed to all nationalist solutions that set the peoples against one another. We recognise however, that the EU is bosses club, with the collective aim of increasing the exploitation of the European working class and attacking welfare provision within the framework of the global neoliberal agenda as enshrined in the Maastricht and Nice treaties. We continue to oppose TTIP and oppose joining the single currency. We will work with like-minded parties and movements for a different Europe based on solidarity.
Support the right of democratically elected governments to stand up to the pressure of European banking interests by refusing to implement austerity and privatisation policies. Work to build organisations that promote the solidarity of the working class across Europe.
2. Start to build our international political connections by applying for observer membership of the Party of the European Left immediately following the close of this conference. An application in line with the constitution of the Party of the European Left (http://european-left.org/propos-de-la-ge/documents) should be prepared and progress reported to the next meeting of the National Council. If the negotiations are complete in time, a proposal to accept and become an observer will be placed before the next National Conference.
3. Pursue independence from USA and its alliances, leaving NATO, cancelling the US/UK Mutual Defence Agreement and withdrawing from the US/NATO Missile Defence system.
4. Work with like-minded parties in Europe against imperialist war, drawing on the lessons of World War 1 and noting the alarming rise of tensions between the great powers today. Approach anti-war organisations and socialist parties in Europe, with a view to organising an international anti-war conference in 2016, drawing on the lessons of the Zimmerwald Conference of 1915.
5. Endorse the Left Unity statement on Ukraine of the 3 March 2014 which concluded with the call “No foreign intervention in Ukraine whether political, economic or military – Democracy and equality for all the people of Ukraine.
6. Advocate the Scrapping of Trident, oppose its replacement in any form and support the complete and unilateral nuclear disarmament of the UK. Link this to an initiating role in international negotiations towards a global ban. Fund alternative jobs for Trident-related workers. Work with CND and ICAN and the majority of states for a nuclear weapons free world. Affiliate to CND, Stop the War and the Drone Campaign Network.
7. Form a Commission or sub-committee with appropriate expertise, to plan the re-configuration of UK military and emergency forces around the redefinition of security needs, peacekeeping and international humanitarian aid work. Issue an alternative report to coincide with the official Security and Defence Review (2015).
8. Support the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and the human rights of Palestinians. Support the BDS campaign (Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions). Oppose anti-Semitism wherever it arises.
9. Support and affiliate to the campaigns opposing the TTIP negotiations (e.g. World Development Movement).
10. Challenge the arguments that immigration is a problem, support campaigns for asylum seekers to be welcome in the UK and apply our anti-racist policies to oppose the linking of specific people as an international threat. (See also 13)
11. Monitor and expose the tax avoidance, forms of exploitation and domination of multinational corporations and financial institutions, for example the new wave of colonialism in Africa.
12. Advocate the use of a ‘real security dividend’ for green and social uses. If we end all military interventions in other countries and redefine Britain’s international role in non-imperial, non-military ways, the need for extensive conventional armories, nuclear weapons and a massive arms industry disappears, releasing resources for social development and alternative green economic policies.
13. Develop detailed plans for the fundamental reform and restructuring of the UN and its agencies, the International Criminal Court and the International Court for Justice, ending victor’s justice and the domination of imperialist states. Campaign for an end to the vetoes on the Security Council by the permanent members.
14. Recognise fully the cultural aspects of international relations e.g. the ways mainstream media and governments create international (or domestic) enemies stigmatize migrants, ethnic minorities, peoples without a state (e.g. Kurds or Palestinians) or supposedly enemy states and peoples like Russia and China.
15. Our party is committed to combating man-made climate change and protecting the environment and other species. We should work closely with environmental groups in putting these issues more firmly on the political agenda, contributing our own understanding of how it is capital’s pursuit of profit that produces many aspects of environmental damage.
16. In many countries LGBT people face incredible prejudice and discrimination, backed by an array of repressive laws and in some countries fact the death penalty. Much of this reactionary and homophobic agenda has been driven by the actions of US evangelical churches in African countries. The recent actions of the Putin government in Russia by legalising anti-LGBT actions has led to huge attacks on the Russian LGBT population by introducing a form of the infamous Section 28. There also continue to be executions and imprisonment of LGBT people in countries such as Iran. We will campaign for the rights of LGBT people internationally and recognise that LGBT rights are human rights and should be supported. While not being supportive of any reactionary or imperialist campaigns to try and link human/LGBT rights campaigns internationally with issues such as military interventions – we will campaign against homophobia and transphobia internationally and stand together with LGBT people across the world.
Working on Longer Term Policies
International Policy is a huge area. Within the terms of the constitution we need to establish a sub-committee or commission with access to appropriate expertise, which can report and make recommendations to the National Council. It should monitor struggles being undertaken by workers, resistance against oppression and climate change around the world. More specifically it should:
A. Assess the potential for working with other international socialist parties and groupings
B. Provide background briefings and analysis of international events.
C. Provide briefings of international publications aiding our support of resistance and critique of international capitalism.
D. Monitor and expose the tax avoidance, forms of exploitation and domination of multinational corporations and financial institutions.
E. Prepare and make policy recommendations to National Conference, Council or the Executive Committee, as appropriate and publish these on the Left Unity website along with reports based on the other sections.
F. Fund exchanges, especially for young people, with movements and institutions abroad that are working for popular emancipation, also using more effectively all the new forms of popular media.
A socialist response to the actions of the “Islamic State” and Western intervention in Iraq
1.1: That in 2014 the Islamic State (IS) seized control of large parts of northern Iraq and eastern Syria, taking advantage of a power vacuum created by a weak government in the former and the ongoing civil war in the latter.
1.2: The IS was formed as a splinter group from the official al-Qaeda organisation in the region, which rose to prominence after the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the subsequent fall of the Ba’athist regime. The IS split from al- Qaeda in order to establish their version of a new “Islamic Caliphate”.
1.3: The IS has been supported both financially and materially (including provision of arms) by prominent people within several reactionary Arab dictatorships in the region, notably Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
1.4: This support is an attempt to undermine attempts to create a legitimately democratic space in the region, which would potentially threaten their own regimes from within.
1.5: Under the auspices of supporting moderates in Syria against the Assad regime, the UK and US have actually provided assistance to the IS.
1.6: That ironically, only a year ago all the talk was of US military intervention on the side of the Syrian opposition – forces that were even then dominated by jihadists who have today evolved into Isis. Today the US and UK are waging an air war against them.
1.7: That with the rise of IS nothing has changed except the priorities of the imperialist powers – there is now an urgent need to maintain control over the country these powers ruined in another ‘humanitarian’ intervention in 2003: Iraq.
1.8: The IS has brutally oppressed anyone who does not support their virulently reactionary, fundamentalist interpretation of Sunni Islam. This includes Shia Muslims, Christians and Yazidis, among many others. When the IS takes control of an area all non-Sunni Muslims have been given a choice of forced conversion or death, and countless people have already been murdered at the hands of the IS.
1.9: This has in turn resorted in a refugee crisis as persecuted groups flee from the IS.
1.10: The governments of the United States and the United Kingdom have committed to air strikes against the IS, citing humanitarian grounds and a supposed threat to people in their respective countries. This is part of coalition which includes other Western countries and also other reactionary regimes in neighbouring Arab countries, which themselves have appalling human rights records, including the government of Saudi Arabia, and which themselves have played no small part in the rise of IS.
1.11: Among the main defenders of the Kurds against the IS have been the Kurdistan People’s Party (PKK) and its Syrian affiliate, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), even though many Western governments consider both “terrorist organisations”.
1.12: The Turkish government has attempted to undermine efforts by the Kurds to defend themselves – notably by preventing Kurds from joining the defence of town of Kobane on the Syrian-Turkish border, until the IS had been successfully repelled.
2.1: That the IS is a viciously reactionary organisation and in no way an ally of the international working-class movement, which needs to mobilise its forces against IS’s murderous and genocidal agenda.
2.2: That the 2003 invasion of Iraq laid the foundations for the current crisis by destabilising the country and creating a power vacuum which the IS seeks to fill. Similarly, military action against the Gaddifi regime in Libya in 2011 ultimately served to destabilise that country. Therefore any further military intervention in Iraq from the UK or other Western countries will not be in the interests of the Iraqi people.
2.3: This underlines how the workers’ movement in the imperialist countries must oppose ‘their’ governments’ interventions, which will only further destabilise the region and boost the forces of reaction.
2.4: Military intervention from the UK, US and other Western countries, whilst carried out under the guise of humanitarianism, is always a cynical measure used to further the interests of their governments and their corporate backers.
2.5: The people of Kurdistan and anywhere that is in the path of the IS have every right to resist IS incursion and use whatever means available in order to protect their homes and communities from them.
2.6: The people currently under IS control have every right to resist and attempt to overthrow the IS if and when such opportunities arise.
2.7: That the workers’ movement in this country has a duty to establish material and political solidarity with working-class forces in Kurdistan, Syria and the region as a whole. There are no easy solutions to this mess, but it is essential that our movement develop its own foreign policy free from imperialist hypocrisy and reaction.
3.1: To oppose UK military intervention in both Iraq and Syria
3.2: To stand against lending any support, even supposedly ‘critical’ support to any regional dictator or Islamist group (‘moderate’ or otherwise) that oppresses the people living under its rule.
3.3: To stand alongside those sections of the working class movement that have not been tainted by either social-imperialism or false anti-imperialism.
3.4 To show solidarity with the people of Iraq and Syria (including the Kurds) and with organisations within Iraq and Syria which are fighting the IS and for the freedom of people, even if we as socialists may not 100% agree with the principles of certain groups, since they are all that stand between the ordinary people of the region and the much more oppressive and reactionary forces of the IS, Assad and other Islamist organisations.
3.5: To demand that the government no longer considers the PKK and PYD terrorist organisations.
3.6: To oppose entities that use the threat of the IS in order to further their own oppressive agenda. This includes the Assad regime in Syria, the theocratic regime in Iran, and any other rival reactionary Islamist groups.
3.7: To oppose attempts by the government to prosecute anyone from the UK for “terrorism” who decides to join the armed struggle against the IS.
Support for Palestinian rights and BDS
Left Unity stands in solidarity with the Palestinian people in their struggle against oppression and dispossession. We will work and campaign towards a just resolution of the Palestine conflict, and towards a future without violence and discrimination.
We recognise that the preconditions for such a resolution include complete and unconditional Israeli withdrawal from all territories occupied in the 1967 war, the implementation of a programme to enable the return of Palestinians exiled and dispersed since the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, and the negation of all discriminatory legislation.
Left Unity supports, and will work to promote, the call by scores of Palestinian organisations (including all Palestinian trade unions) for a campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel until it complies with its obligations under international law. We will work to support academic and cultural boycotts of Israel.
Left Unity will affiliate to and work with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, and will support local solidarity and twinning groups. In trade unions, we will work towards establishing links with Palestinian trade unions and cutting links with Israeli trade unions, including the Histadrut, which do not act in support of Palestinian rights.
We will oppose propaganda efforts to present Israel as a model for human or democratic rights. In particular, we will support the campaign against Israeli “pinkwashing”, which falsely presents Israel as an oasis of LGBTQ rights. We reject any attempt to smear opponents of Zionism and supporters of Palestinian rights as antisemites.
At the same time, Left Unity will resolutely oppose any expression of antisemitism, whether within the solidarity movement or elsewhere. We recognise that such racism is not only wrong in itself; it also gives a spurious credibility to Israeli propaganda. Our support for Palestinian rights is motivated by the principles of international solidarity and anti-racism.
Solidarity with the Kurdish resistance to IS
Left Unity opposes the military action in Iraq and Syria, currently conducted by the USA and its Western and Middle Eastern allies under the pretext of fighting the Islamic State (IS).
The US-led coalition’s claims that this action is necessary to defend the Kurds and other minorities from the potentially genocidal actions of IS’s self-proclaimed “caliphate” are belied by their refusal to allow the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) access to the weaponry needed to defend the Kurdish enclave of Kobanê, and also by their refusal to demand of their NATO ally Turkey that it open the border to allow Kurds in Turkey to go to the aid of their fellow Kurds in Syria.
No support should be given and no confidence should be placed in any US or allied intervention, whether conducted from the air or by “boots on the ground.”
The US and its allies here are not legitimate global policeman or firefighters, but rather the biggest thieves, housebreakers and arsonists on the planet, as events in the Balkans, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Iraq have repeatedly shown. Their bombings and invasions have killed far more people including civilians than IS have so far managed to “achieve”, and they are acting in support of a Shia sectarian Iraqi state who own atrocities and discrimination against its Sunni citizens is partly responsible for the rise of sectarian forces like IS. They are also strengthening the Assad regime, whose war against its own country’s population has allowed IS to consolidate.
The Turkish state under Erdogan and his predecessors, whether Islamist or Kemalist, has been the mortal enemy of its own Kurdish citizens’ right to self-determination, and of all other Kurdish forces not subordinated to its strategic objective of blocking the very possibility of an independent Kurdish state. Its obstruction of any aid to the Syrian Kurds’ defence against IS testifies to this, as does the covert support that Erdogan has given to the growth of IS.
If either Turkish or Western troops were to enter and occupy Rojava, the Kurdish autonomous region in Syria, then it would only be to disarm its militias and oppress its population as soon as the IS danger is removed.
Similarly, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the other Gulf states have for years fomented a bitter and destructive sectarian civil war in Iraq, one that the US tolerated if not fostered as a means of dividing its enemies. They have done all in their power to give the Syrian people’s legitimate uprising for democracy a reactionary and religious character, using their money and arms to promote the most sectarian forces amongst the anti-Assad Syrian factions.
For socialists, democrats and anti-imperialists in the West to give any endorsement or support to the war being waged by these forces is criminal. While the Kurds and other minorities have every right to take advantage of whatever assistance is available from their less immediately deadly enemies to combat their more immediately deadly one, we should not paint the Western imperialists as their friends and allies in whom any confidence could be placed.
We hold that there is a progressive alternative to the imperialist intervention: solidarity with the Kurdish popular defence and the Syrian democratic opposition. That solidarity means calling for the lifting of the embargos that have so far allowed Western governments to deny them access to arms, and that have criminalized the international volunteers willing to go and fight alongside them in their defence.
Nor should our opposition both to IS and to the imperialist intervention against it lead us to grant any “secular” or “anti-imperialist” credentials to the blood-soaked Assad regime, which has slaughtered hundreds of thousands of its own people and displaced millions.
Our solidarity also goes to the Kurdish movement in Turkey and its allies on the Turkish left, who have tried repeatedly to break the Turkish state’s blockade on aid to Kobanê. We should argue for the labor movement in Britain and across Europe to campaign for material and military assistance to the Kurds and other progressive forces in Syria and Iraq without any political preconditions.
This includes demanding the repeal of the EU-wide ban on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) as a “terrorist organization”, especially now that the Turkey’s blockade has caused the suspension of its “peace process” with the PKK, with pro-Kurdish demonstrations in many Turkish cities being met with violent action from the police, leading to several deaths.
A victory for IS would mean a disaster not only for the Kurdish people, for thousands of remaining residents and fighters facing a massacre, but also for the self-government structures which have been built up in Rojava, which would be destroyed and replaced by a totalitarian dictatorship for such of the population as remains. The subjugation of the Kurds in Rojava would be fatal blow to the remaining progressive, democratic forces of the Syrian revolution and to what is left of the “Arab Spring”.
The resistance in Kobanê and Rojava therefore needs our urgent support. The heroism of their popular defense bears witness to the fact that the freedom struggle of oppressed peoples, workers and farmers is still alive even under most unfavourable conditions, the superior forces of the IS pogromists, and the cynical politics of the regional powers and of the great imperialist powers, above all the USA. Their resistance is an inspiration to us all.
Support the relief of the siege of Kobanê! Lift the blockade on volunteers, material aid and weapons for the Kurdish resistance! End the ban on the PKK! Open the EU borders for refugees!
No to any imperialist intervention!
Solidarity with Kurdistan
Since 16th of September, the Kurdish city of Kobane in northern Syria have been defending themselves against the onslaught of ISIS
Those Kurdish areas captured by ISIS have seen mass executions and enslavement of female Kurdish civilians take place, indicating a potentially likely future if Kobane falls to the hands of ISIS
That Kobane, the home of the progressive “Rojava Revolution”, is the political base of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD)
That the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, allied with the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party), is the key progressive Kurdish political force
That the Kurdish resistance fighters, which include the all-female defence unites YPJ (Women’s Protection Unit) which make-up 30% of Kurdish militias, have been fighting ISIS with light weaponry and practically no international support against the more advanced military of ISIS
Turkey has not provided any military or monetary support for the Kurdish resistance to ISIS, despite the continuous calls for intervention by the Kurdish community in the legal borders of Turkey
That the Charter of the Social Contract (www.kurdishinstitute.be/charter-of-the-social-contract/ ) adopted in the Kurdish region (Rojava) of Syria includes commitments to the principles of democratic self-management, self-determination and opposition to discrimination on grounds of gender or race. It recognises the rights of all ethnic, cultural and religious groups in the region within a framework governed by the International Bill of Human Rights
That ISIS is a reactionary and gruesome organisation which has caused suffering and death to the civilian populations of large parts of Syria and Iraq
That the Kurdish resistance and progressive political establishment are worthy of international solidarity and support
The British Kurdish community have repeatedly demanded solidarity for the people of Syrian Kurdistan, with little support from the established British left
That internationalism is the cornerstone of socialist politics and is more needed today than ever before
To coordinate a fundraising campaign for the (Syrian) Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) together with Kurdish community organisations and other supportive groups
To campaign for the de-criminalisation of the Kurdish PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party)
To campaign for the British government to grant asylum-seeker status to any and all Kurdish refugees seeking asylum in Britain
Left Unity is active in movements and campaigns across the left, working to create an alternative to the main political parties.
Events and protests from around the movement, and local Left Unity meetings.
Sat 2 Mar, 9.30-17.00
Confronting the Rise of the Far Right, European Conference
Organised by Transform UK.
Bloomsbury Central, 235 Shaftesbury Ave, London WC2H 8EP.
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