Labour was and is a pro-war party

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By John McAllion

The Labour left has always tried to align itself with the peace movement. Michael Foot led the anti-H Bomb marches to Aldermaston in the 1950s, just as Tony Benn led the CND marches in London, in protest against the siting of US Cruise missiles in the 1980s.

On behalf of Labour’s Campaign for Socialism, I myself spoke at Scottish rallies opposing NATO’s attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq in the early years of this century.

These examples, of course, do not make Labour an anti-war or an anti-nuclear weapons party. There are those within Labour’s ranks who are both.

Labour’s 1982 programme for government even called for a world free of war, for a strengthening of the influence of the United Nations, for the dissolution of NATO and for British unilateral nuclear disarmament. That programme, however, was written during the brief “Bennite” ascendancy within the party that was swiftly brought to a brutal end.

Militarist roots

Within 18 months of its publication, the 1982 programme was being denounced by leading Labour moderates as “the longest (electoral) suicide note in history”. The party has since returned to its normal militarist roots. No one should therefore be surprised by the recent article written for the New Statesman magazine by Labour’s defence spokesperson, Jim Murphy MP, in which he outlines a blueprint for future NATO military intervention against “Islamist extremism” in poor developing countries beset by what he describes as “state weakness”, “lawlessness” and “instability”.

Such states, he argues, are the “international community’s” Achilles heel. They foster humanitarian abuse and terrorist activity and put UK and other citizens in the west “at risk”. For the benefit of the people of these poor countries, and for the sake of our own citizens, Murphy contends that the future use of NATO force against such countries will be necessary.

Conscious of recent NATO disasters in Iraq and Afghanistan, he explains how the “lessons from our recent past” will influence future NATO aggression. Next time “our” troops will be invited in by the “host authority”; they will be “culturally aware”; they will work alongside of local proxy armies; they will operate under the political cover provided by local multinational regional organisations.

Murphy’s article could have been penned by the still unrepentant Tony Blair who, on its tenth anniversary, not only defended the illegal invasion of Iraq but also suggested that it provided a model for future NATO assaults on Syria and Iran.

An unashamed Blairite himself, Murphy polled heavily in the parliamentary party’s last  Shadow Cabinet elections and enjoys the support of the Labour leadership. His is a mainstream rather than a maverick voice within Labour.

Murphy is also the latest in a long line of pro-American, pro-NATO, pro-nuclear weapons and pro-war Labour politicians. It was a Labour Prime Minister who took the secret and fateful decision in 1947 to manufacture a British nuclear bomb. Two other Labour Prime Ministers secretly authorised the massively expensive “Chevaline” upgrading of Polaris nuclear weapons in the 1970s. The last Labour government, of course, launched the current upgrading of Trident nuclear weapons.

Labour is arguably the most pro-NATO political party in Britain. The biographer of Clem Attlee argued that persuading the Americans to join the then newly established NATO was the post-war Labour government’s “outstanding achievement” in foreign affairs.

NATO attacks

Whether in government or in opposition, Labour has consistently supported NATO attacks in Yugoslavia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Libya. Former Labour Defence Secretary George Robertson even served as NATO’s general secretary between 1999 and the beginning of 2004.

Labour’s support for US aggression and imperialism has equally been unwavering. As the official opposition, Labour provided its “full support” to the sanctions, bombing and invasion of Iraq under the first George Bush. As the government, Blair’s Labour would join with the second George Bush in the illegal and murderous attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq.

There are many other examples, including a Labour government’s launching of a brutal war against a nationalist uprising in Malaya, Labour involvement in the coup to overthrow a popular nationalist government in Iran and, of course, Labour support for the Falklands War.

Labour’s record speaks for itself and demonstrates that in defence of the interests of national and international capitalism, Britain’s dogs of war sit on both sides of the House of Commons.

Courtesy of the Scottish Socialist Voice