Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has been urged to speak out against “the ongoing slaughter of civilians by Russian and Assad-regime forces in Syria” by party members, Momentum activists and socialists, including many self-declared Corbyn supporters.
Signatories to the open letter, published online on 3 October, declare their “wholehearted” agreement with Corbyn’s opposition to militarism and nuclear weapons, and call to end British arms exports to countries such as Saudi Arabia, but say they are “concerned” by the Labour leader’s silence – “so far” – on Syria.
“We share your scepticism about kneejerk military responses to the situation in Syria, such as the bombing campaign against ISIS proposed by David Cameron last autumn,” says the statement. “We are not asking you to back Western interventions of this kind, but simply to say clearly and unequivocally that the actions of Assad and Russia in Syria are barbaric war crimes, and that you will seek to end them, and to hold their perpetrators to account.
“We applaud your efforts, over decades, to end the crimes of brutal regimes supported by Western powers. But we do not believe that this exhausts the duties of anti-imperialists, socialists and peace activists in Western countries. The fact that Assad is supported not by the USA or Britain, but by Russia and Iran, does not make his crimes any less horrific, or the political future he represents for the people of Syria any less dismal. Nor does it mean that Western political leaders are powerless in acting to oppose these crimes.”
The statement castigates the “polarised” debate on Syria and rejects what it calls the “false” terms set out so far as being stuck between two positions: “scrupulous ‘non-intervention’ in the face of massive carnage enabled by Russian intervention, versus support for bombing campaigns as part of a Western ‘war on terror’. We have all been asked to take up a position in these terms. But the terms are false.”
“‘Food not bombs’ should be the rallying cry [of the anti-war movement],” it adds, “not ‘Hands off Syria’, which only gives the Assad regime and Russia carte blanche to continue with their slaughter.
“Failure to act on this issue now threatens to undermine practically and politically much of the work done over many years by the anti-war movement. The legacy of yourself and the anti-war movement over Syria must not be one of silence and inaction in the face of such momentous atrocities.”
The statement is signed by people from all over the country and across the Labour movement including trade unionists, academics, journalists, local Labour Party officers and Momentum committee members.
The open letter, ‘Jeremy Corbyn: speak out on Syria’, can be found here, where you can add your name to the statement.