Stop the War Coalition’s Pro-Imperialist Anti-Imperialism


British group Stop the War Coalition’s (StWC) statement on the Russian invasion of Ukraine is just another example of its pro-imperialist anti-imperialism. Whereas Lenin saw wars as the continuation of political struggle and derived his stance from a thorough analysis of all sides involved and an independent evaluation of where the interests of the workers’ movement lay in a given conflict, StWC leader Lindsey German merely looks at which side has the backing or involvement of Western governments as if Western imperialism were the only imperialism or as if Russian imperialism does not exist. She admonishes people who demand that StWC take the same “hands off” position on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that it took regarding a U.S. military strike on Syria:

“Those who demand anti-war activity here in Britain against Russia are ignoring the history and the present reality in Ukraine and Crimea. The B52 liberals only oppose wars when their own rulers do so, and support the ones carried out by our governments. The job of any anti-war movement is to oppose its own government’s role in these wars, and to explain what that government and its allies are up to.”

Thus, anyone who points out the sheer hypocrisy of StWC refusing to organize anti-war rallies at Russian embassies is by definition a B-52 liberal who only opposes wars when their own rulers do so, nevermind the fact that most people who opposed a U.S strike on Syria or the invasion of Iraq do not approve of the Russian invasion of Ukraine; that makes them (unlike StWC) consistently pro-peace, not B-52 liberals.

The key to what passes for thinking among StWC’s leadership is that last sentence: “the job of any anti-war movement is to oppose its own government’s role in these wars.” This is a recipe for a bizarre  ‘left’ British/Western chauvinism in which all conflicts around the globe are really about us and not them, about the West and who it backs among the belligerents and not the actual belligerents or the political content of their struggle. “It’s not you, it’s me is not only the worst break-up line ever invented, it is also a completely vacuous method of evaluating wars, a method that could only be dreamed up by the brain dead and championed by idiots. Hence why StWC saw the conflict in Mali not as a fight between the government, Islamist extremist militias, and rebel Taureg militias in which French forces played a temporary and subordinate role but as an example of  ‘neocolonialism’ and the  ‘return of colonialism’ after France sent a few thousand soldiers to back up Mali’s beleaguered government. Once it became obvious that France was not turning Mali’s government into a puppet or otherwise colonizing the country, the so-called left in the West blinked and forgot about the whole thing like so many goldfish.

Make no mistake, leftists with the attention span and intellectual bandwidth of goldfish are no threat to any imperialism, East or West.

The politics of Russia’s invasion of the Ukrainian Crimea are an extension of the fight within Ukraine over whether the country should orient itself towards Russia or the European Union (EU). Russia suffered a major setback in its fight to retain influence in the country when Ukraine’s pro-Russian president was ousted by huge, militant street demonstrations that only grew more popular the more murderous state repression was unleashed upon them. Sensing that Barack Obama has entered the Chamberlain phase of his presidency, Russian imperialism is pursuing a policy of thinly-veiled aggression and annexation of the ethnically Russian areas of Ukraine, mirroring Hitler’s policy of annexing German-majority areas in neighboring states before the formal outbreak of World War Two. Russia’s seizure of the Crimea is but the first shot in a longer drawn-out crisis of a reinvigorated Russian imperialism, a provocation aimed at putting Ukraine into permanent political crisis as necessary the precondition for the country’s break-up. If Ukraine responds militarily, Russia will claim  ‘self defense’ and carry out its full policy of aggression and if Ukraine does not respond militarily, it will fragment and begin to disintegrate under the weight of Russia’s provocations and territorial seizures.

Supporters of Russian imperialism like StWC cast the Euromaidan demonstrations as fascist and reactionary as if reactionary forces are never involved on the progressive side of a given fight; conversely, the Western media largely ignored the fascist and proto-fascist elements among the demonstrators in an effort to portray Euromaidan sympathetically. Both failed to examine the crux of the matter, to evaluate the content of the struggle. In the abstract, both Russia and the EU are imperialist powers and Western leftists often do not move beyond the abstract and the general to the concrete, to the historical and lived realities of millions of people in their own countries much less anyone else’s. Historically, Russia has inflicted tremendous oppression upon the Ukraine and the invasion of Russian troops (without Russian insignia) is a sharp reminder of the stark difference between the ‘equally imperialist  Russia and the EU: the EU does not have armies massed on Ukraine’s border, ready to march in if the people of Ukraine vote the ‘wrong’ way. Therefore the anti-Russia demonstrations have a national character and yes, they involve fascist and rightist elements because these elements are the most virulent and vigorous champions of nationalism, but they are not acting alone nor in a vacuum but in concert with a broad-based backlash against the resurgence of the Great Russian oppressor nationalism Lenin spent half of his Collected Works denouncing as the number one threat to proletarian internationalism. That there are reactionary strains within the nationalisms of the oppressed can only surprise or frighten those who waste their lives inhabiting ‘leftist’ bubbles where anti-Semitic Palestinians do not exist and where the Nation of Islam never shows up at a rally against police brutality.

If Lindsey German and the ‘anti-imperialists’ who cry “fascism” are correct in characterizing the Euromaidan movement as fascist, fascist-led, or fascist-dominated, how do they explain the Crimean Muslims who have taken to the streets and joined the movement raising the slogans “God is great and “Ukraine is not Russia”? How do they explain the defections from the pro-Russia now-former prime minister Viktor Yanukovich’s Regions party after he ordered snipers to shoot unarmed demonstrators in the streets of Kiev? How do they explain the crushing 328-vote parliamentary majority (out of 450) that included pro-Russia elements to oust Yanukovich? How do they explain the 36,000 ethnically Russian Ukrainians who reject Russian President Putin’s Hitler-ist “protection”? How do they explain the anti-war, anti-interventionist protests in Moscow? Is Pussy Riot now ‘pro-fascist’ and ‘pro-Western imperialist’?


Internationalism, from Kiev (above) to Kafranbel (below).


StWC’s degeneration into a pawn of Russian imperialism is proof positive that there are — broadly speaking — two types of anti-imperialism: progressive and reactionary, internationalist and chauvinist.

One anti-imperialism’s center of gravity is living, breathing people and their struggles to overthrow oppression and exploitation while the other is narcissistically Western/Israel-centric, dominated by lifeless two-dimensional abstractions and juxtapositions, and obsessed with state-driven realpolitik.

One is not only opposed to all forms and instances of imperialist oppression but actively struggles against them and the other is hypocritical, selective, and sneaks its support for one imperialism inside its loud denunciations of another.

One seeks to unite democratic struggles in Russia, Ukraine, Syria, and all lands against tyrants, fascists, and hangmen while the other seeks to disrupt this unity with lies, slander, misinformation, and conspiracy theories. StWC is the ugliest and nauseating specimen of this latter type, of naked pro-imperialist anti-imperialism that says Western cluster bombs are bad but Russian cluster bombs are good, that Western-backed tyrants are bad but Russian-backed tyrants are good, that Western chemical weapons are bad but Russian-supplied chemical weapons are good, that Western imperialist wars of aggression and occupation are bad but Russian imperialist wars of aggression and occupation are good.

To conclude: one type of anti-imperialism is revolutionary and the other is counter-revolutionary. Between these two there can be no peace nor alliance without betraying internationalism and oppressed peoples the world over.


  1. Flashdance said:

    Stop the War is the politics of bollocks. If it was wrong in Iraq it is wrong in the Ukraine. Wherever people on the planet stand up for their rights there is STW telling them to fuck off. Ask one question: who is pointing the guns? Russia is part of global capital and behind the invasion is a political and economic elite only interested in themselves.


  2. Solomon said:

    “In the abstract, both Russia and the EU are imperialist powers”

    – In what way do you see the EU as an “imperialist” power? Please clarify that point if you can.


    • Not George Sabra said:

      This was written with the understanding that Marxists like Lindsey German adhere to Lenin’s definition of imperialism as “monopoly capitalism,” the fusion of state power and big corporations, rather than a particular policy (expansionism, free trade). The European Union is most definitely a trading bloc dominated by imperialist powers like France and Germany but it is not (yet) an imperialist power in the sense that the Russian state is. “Imperialist coalition” might have been a more accurate description. I hope that answers your question, but if not, I can continue elaborating.

      All of this is putting aside the fact that Lenin’s definition of imperialism is 1) woefully outdated and 2) never correct to begin with and 3) not the proper basis for 21st century internationalist anti-imperialism.


  3. Upeksa said:

    Not George Sabra, I think you are right on-the-money about Stop the War’s pro-Kremlin stance; their “selective internationalism” may even indicate a past or present Kremlin-led agenda among senior leadership: fundamentally anti-American, anti-Israel (and not above exploiting Judeophobia and using Islamist sympathies toward that end), and anti-West.

    Their singling out Western countries and Israel for their expressions of disgust comes as no surprise if one is aware both of Far Left leanings of prominent senior names in the StWC and of Kremlin-led “active measures” (meaning measures for political warfare), some strategies and campaigns of which have only floated into public awareness thanks to revelations by former Soviet intelligence officers. Even now not all these may be widely known (and one needs to distinguish them from intelligence-gathering), but here are to some examples of such activity…it’s a lot of reading but worth it if these matters are unknown…
    (2002) Article by former DIE officer Ion Mihai Pacepa…
    (2004) Interview with former DIE officer Ion Mihai Pacepa…
    (2006) Interview with former DIE officer Ion Mihai Pacepa…
    (2008) Article by former KGB officer Konstantin Preobrazhenskiy…
    (2009) Interview with former KGB officer Konstantin Preobrazhenskiy…
    (2009) Interview with former KGB officer Konstantin Preobrazhenskiy…
    (2014) Interview with former DIE officer Ion Mihai Pacepa…

    Recently, testimonies have also been published against the Kremlin-backed network RT (Russia Today) by former news-anchors…
    (2014) Article by Elizabeth Wahl…
    (2014) Article on Sarah Firth…

    Ion Pacepa’s book “Disinformation: Former Spy Chief Reveals Secret Strategies for Undermining Freedom, Attacking Religion, and Promoting Terrorism” includes much of relevance to the Middle East. Syria is specifically mentioned in the following cases…
    1) In 1967, it “was in effect being run by Soviet advisers.” (p. 260)
    2) In 1972, head of Soviet Russia’s KGB (intelligence agency) Yuri Andropov launched an operation aimed at turning the Islamic world into an “explosive” enemy of the United States. As part of the Soviet Union, the Romanian DIE’s sphere of influence “embraced Libya, Iran, Lebanon, and Syria, where Romania was involved in building hospitals, schools and roads and maintained large colonies of builders, doctors, and teachers. The DIE’s task was to scour Romania for trusted Communist Party activists belonging to Islamic ethnic groups, to train them in dezinformatisiya [disinformation] and terrorist operations, and infiltrate them in its target countries. They would be charged with the task of implanting a rabid, demented hatred for American Zionism by manipulating the ancestral abhorrence for Jews felt by many people in that part of the world.” (p. 262; further information on this “operation”, which included Syria as a “sphere of influence”, is given in the book and referred to in some of the above links.)
    3) “Most of the Hezbollah weapons cases captured by the Israeli military forces during [their offensive against Hezbollah in 2006] were marked: “Customer: Ministry of Defense of Syria. Supplier: KPB, Tula, Russia.” (p. 288)
    4) “During 2007, the Russian KGB/FSB assassinated Ivan Safronov, a Russian military expert for the magazine “Kommersant” (and framed his death as a suicide) to prevent him from publishing an explosive article about the Kremlin’s secret sale of SU-30 fighters to anti-American Syria. Safronov was the twenty-first journalist critical of the Kremlin to be killed since the progeny of Andropov’s political police took over the Kremlin on December 31, 1999. Well over 120 more Russian journalists have been killed since.” (p.290)

    Mr Pacepa’s book also includes an 11-page chapter on the international and continuing ripple-effect of vitriolic Kremlin disinformation (including fabricated descriptions/history and counterfeit photographs) in the USA’s anti-war movement. I suspect that similar has been and continues at work in the UK, not for the cause of peace, kindness and win-win, but rooted in enmity.


  4. Upeksa said:

    Here are the above links more readily accessible…

    (2002) Article by former DIE officer Ion Mihai Pacepa…
    (2004) Interview with former DIE officer Ion Mihai Pacepa…
    (2006) Interview with former DIE officer Ion Mihai Pacepa…
    (2008) Article by former KGB officer Konstantin Preobrazhenskiy…
    (2009) Interview with former KGB officer Konstantin Preobrazhenskiy…
    (2009) Interview with former KGB officer Konstantin Preobrazhenskiy…
    (2014) Interview with former DIE officer Ion Mihai Pacepa…
    (2014) Article by former RT news-anchor (Washington-based) Elizabeth Wahl…
    (2014) Article on former RT news-anchor (London-based) Sarah Firth…


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