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The Roots of Failure of British Activism


I recently wrote of A Day of International Shame for British Activism in which I spoke of the poor showing of support for Bradley Manning; a critical issue at a critical time. A decade of decline of resistance to criminal domination of all of the institutions that are the operational machinery of our civilisation has been characterised in every sense by failures to take action on critical issues at critical times.

As Americans once liked to say: “Do the maths!”

One glance at the image below should be enough to show that it’s “crunch-time” for Global Activism. I don’t say it’s time for pessimism and despair – FAR FROM IT!!

I don’t say it’s time to give up – quite the contrary, otherwise I would not be wasting my precious time left on this planet writing this minuscule, perhaps futile rant of carefully chosen words and thoughts, as so many others have done so much better than I. But I DO say that “It’s ‘crunch-time’ for Global Activism”. The reality is unmistakable; the Psychopaths Who Own Western Capitalism are closing the gate on a modern, fascist, technologically-controlled feudal society that will be unbearable for thinking people to live in and there is very little resistance.

Pulling aside the veil of hopeful illusions the image above is an exposure of the reality of Global Activism more stark than anyone could imagine.

The Stop the War “Movement”

Critical examination of the UK Stop the War Coalition (STWC) provides clear insight as to why we are in this perilous situation; it’s not for want of awareness or the will to mobilise, it’s the dependency on institutionalised “activism” and an illusory “organisation and leadership” that has left a very fertile and potentially highly effective resistance incapacitated and ineffective, without coordination or strategy.

An Important Meeting of the STWC

On Friday 9th August I attended a meeting of the UK Stop the War Coalition (STWC) in London on the subject of “War and Whistle-blowers - Why Bradley Manning Should be Free”. I rather felt that the title of a public meeting held by the UK STWC should be more like “HOW Bradley Manning Shall be Freed!” but I felt compelled to go, having recently written emails to them challenging their lack of effectiveness and besides, the billed list of speakers was simply “irresistible”:

  • Tariq Ali writer and activist,
  • Peter Tatchell human rights campaigner
  • Norman Solomon US author and activist,
  • Kate Hudson CND
  • Chris Nineham Stop the War Coalition.

And to quote the self-congratulatory opening line from Kate Hudson it was “Such an important meeting”.

I did not think it so important, certainly not in terms of effect, but I describe it here at length because I believe that it lies at the very heart of the problem facing Global Activism and British Activism in particular, in our disastrous failure in a decade to achieve CHANGE that should never have been needed at all.

The room seated about a hundred and filled to overflowing – so I estimate numbers generously at around 120. If you take a look at the photo I have provided, courtesy of PayDay Mens’ Network, which represents a snapshot of engagement with the International Day of Action for Bradley Manning not only in London but also Wales, Berlin, Rome, Philadelphia, Istanbul and Fort Meade, you will see there are less than 120 people in these photographs, including passers-by. Perhaps then, it isn’t so surprising that the meeting paused SIX times, yes that’s right SIX times, at beginning and end and between speakers, to sing the praises of all those who attended, celebrate this ‘marvellous’ attendance and to thank people for responding and STWC for arranging it at such short notice. Notice that: “at such short notice”.

Was STWC supremely confident that the military court would find Bradley Manning Not Guilty? Is that why for weeks prior there was nothing about Bradley Manning on their website other than to support the campaign for his tainted Nobel Peace Prize to be wrenched reluctantly from a disgraced committee? Is that why STWC did ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to organise for the International Day of Action for Bradley Manning? Yes, that’s right; you can’t get anything more starkly revealing than that – NOTHING! - from an entity that calls itself an ‘organisation’ committed to Stop the War(s) and which assumes the mantle of ‘leadership’. Perhaps they thought that no action would be necessary, or that it was not their role? It was the pitiful showing on that day in London that prompted me to write A Day of International Shame for British Activism, with particular scorn for STWC.

But let us review proceedings.

After a lengthy praise for our attendance and STWC from Kate Hudson of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), first up was Tariq Ali who once again used that word “important” in his opening words “Dear friends [ponderous pause] we are at the beginning of something important – a growing campaign…”.

And so began a lengthy, rambling oration that seemed ominously reminiscent of Winston Churchill and which might have been more compelling had it been delivered with more of the sense of passionate commitment to the subject at hand and expressed less in the extremely punctuated, pause-full and obviously affected articulation of the landed British aristocracy.

I could strongly agree that it is a critical time, as my title suggests, but not a “beginning” and not even a “beginning of an end” but an end in its last, dying gasps of a resistance to war and the outrageous death and destruction of rampant corporate psychopathy that has brought us to the brink of economic, environmental and social – perhaps also nuclear disaster.

In the ponderous manner of an aging school-teacher he began a story which he introduced as “a story that involves me… to some extent…” it was hard to know if it was a story about publishing books or whistle-blowing and it certainly contained nothing of the sense of extreme urgency in the need to support Bradley Manning. When at last the subject changed it was to refer to how “insufferable” the media had been in attacking the people who had provided them information; I felt an urge to groan loudly “We know, Tariq, we KNOW!” And so developed a talk that inevitably ended with a trite tribute to the long list of whistle-blowers “to whom we owe so much” and a gentle urging to “show Bradley Manning as much support as we can” followed by a passing reflection that “we need to do more” and asking us to “spend a little more time”.

These words were uttered so softly that I suspected Tariq feared waking his audience. But no, he had kept them entertained; he had spent some time lambasting the Nobel Peace Prize Committee. Perhaps “lampooning” is the better word, it certainly demonstrated his skill in punctuating his oratory with a little comic relief to keep his audience entertained. But I thought this rather ran contrary to the STWC attention to the campaign for Bradley Manning’s Nobel Peace Prize, which, given the likelihood of success or effect, that “little more time” could be better spent.

At 35 minutes into the meeting we pause for a book promotion and to be informed that if we take out STWC membership this evening we’ll get a free copy. Thank you Kate and now we come to hear from Icelandic MP Birgitta Jónsdóttir whose research has found that US legal protections for whistle-blowers extend only to cases of exposing waste and financial fraud – i.e. protecting money. Well that’s great Birgitta but disgraceful as that is as a reflection on the US legal system we suspect that we have already got all we will see from US law as regards to Bradley Manning and really, we didn’t come out this evening to discuss whether your career is in politics or journalism, neither of which attracts much esteem, or even how you perceive your role as an MP. It does nothing to encourage us in our hopes that a small flash drive provides excellent practical aid to whistle-blowing when the practical problem at hand is the power for vindictive response from the state by psychopathic lawyers like Obama who don’t mind pre-empting the guilty verdict, or the early death-sentencing of Manning by John Boulton. Not even the little joke about Britain not being a very ‘secure’ option for Edward Snowden to seek asylum – given that Iceland is out of the question – is very redeeming. Which is the “comic relief”?

After another little reminder of how good we all have been in coming out in such good numbers and thanks to STWC we have Chris Nineham, chair of Stop the War Coalition here to inform us at length just how worthy were Bradley Manning’s motives, that he is the very opposite of a spy, as we can read from his published testimony, which, incidentally the US government wanted also to cloak in secrecy – but we’ve already read it Chris and we know the story. That’s not why we’re here.

But Chris apparently was here to remind us that it was the revelations about the brutality and savagery, the murder and mayhem of war that Bradley Manning was whistle-blowing, that these wars are not about “liberation and democracy” but about power and resources and that we were lied to and that these wars are still on-going, we must not forget that. I began to wonder if there is a concern at STWC that the trade mark and brand of STWC was at risk of fading; it certainly is tarnished. Is there some concern, perhaps that its purpose is being blurred and losing ground in the excessive prominence of attention to this “ancillary issue” of whistle-blowing. But no, Chris is here to remind us that it’s “meetings like this” (this one organised by STWC) taking place all over the world (this room full of 120 people representing the 55 Million people of the UK) that will make the difference.

I’m sincerely glad that Chris is confident but I’m inclined to agree with Tariq Ali, at least on that score, that “we need to do a little more”.

At 19:55, almost an hour in, and after another pause to marvel at the achievement of gathering 120 people at such short notice (reflecting badly, I would have thought, rather than well, on STWC leadership and organisation) we have Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner whose occasionally impassioned delivery perhaps lacks flow and comfortable rhythm, or well-timed climax and cadence and so seemed a little unrehearsed and awkward. But still, a few more of these meetings, with large attentive audiences to hone his oratory skills and Peter will be on his way. I particularly liked those words that “so many people are holding a light for Bradley Manning” and I wondered if all these candles would burn for 137 years. Or was he perhaps alluding to the media emphasis on Bradley being gay and emotionally unstable attracting sympathy rather than solidarity. It was rather disturbing to hear this man speak of Bradley’s time in prison and “the many more years awaiting him”, as if these were already accepted as a given. It began to remind me of the feel of a funeral sermon I once attended, given by a vicar who quite obviously disapproved quite viciously of the fact that my friend had committed suicide. My reflection was soon broken by another of those slightly awkward, impassioned crescendos lambasting the UK government for their “wicked silence!” given that Bradley has defacto UK citizenship by way of his Welsh mother.

Having dealt for a while with his shock that The Guardian had simply exploited the opportunity given by Peter of connecting them up with some (presumably gay) friends of Bradley Manning to mercilessly emphasise the theme of his being gay and imply that his motives stemmed from this and his alleged “emotional instability” (well “surprise surprise!” Peter) we came to another crescendo with Peter forcefully telling Obama that these houndings of whistle-blowers “have got to stop!!”. And oh, he spoke it with such force! They must have heard him in Washington. Well done Peter!

At 20:12 Jeremy Corbyn has rushed to us straight from the airport, just off his flight from Belfast to give us one more song of praise for Bradley Manning and this time to labour on the topic of the potential of pursuing matters in the ICC. Now there’s a possibility!!

Of course, no-one could seriously pick up the subject the ICC without first donning some rubber gloves and taking a cloth to remove some of the muck. So Jeremy had to make passing, somewhat apologetic reference to the reputation of the ICC and the fact that they have “so far” turned a blind eye (forgetting to mention the deaf ear). So I digressed into wondering about the sanity of Jeremy Corbyn and stopped taking notes.

I once made an in-depth study of the ICC to try to understand how an institution that was conceived of with such high ideals has become a mere corrupt tool of the US Empire, which is not even a signatory. I wrote on the subject at length in The Criminal Fraud of the ICC and I know that if people like Jeremy want to give serious consideration to the ICC they should first discover all they can about US involvement in its history. Why not take a look Jeremy; we’re depending on you for guidance after all.

It’s 20:23 and time to pause once more before our final speaker for another reminder of what a wonderful job we and STWC are doing and what a difference it makes and that it all costs money, while the buckets go around for the collection. It was eerily like being in a church, an institution, by the way, that has for centuries collaborated with the state, even fascist states in dissipating unrest and subjugating the masses.

Last on the agenda is Norman Solomon, co-founder of Roots Action Committee.

By the time I received an email from Roots Action urging me to sign a petition in support of Bradley Manning’s nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize I had already written a letter to the NPP Committee urging them to redeem themselves for their obvious “miscalculation” on Obama and outlining the very good reasons to award the NPP to Bradley Manning. So of course, I signed.

Some weeks later, when I received a request from Norman Solomon for a donation to pay for his travel to Norway to deliver the petition of 100,000 names, although certainly a good way to deliver, I could not help thinking that if I had 100,000 signatures on a petition for Bradley Manning’s NPP, I would almost break my neck in my haste getting there and walk to Norway if necessary. So I felt a strong impulse to write back saying “Hey, send them to me, I’ll take them there for nothing!!”

Now I do understand, I really do, that everything costs money; but let it not erode the dignity of purpose.

It particularly caught my attention in Norman Solomon’s quite genuine speech that he mentioned Franz Kafka’s The Trial in which K., having been utterly reduced to inaction, missed the opportunity of an open door, which the guard then informed K, before closing it, “that door was only for you”. Solomon derided the media that would have us believe that we have no responsibility to act, that there is no need for us to do anything.

As this “important” meeting closed, almost abruptly, I was overwhelmed by the feeling that a whole evening and a significant opportunity had been wasted, that we had gathered for an evening of futile ranting about the outrages that we are already more than sufficiently familiar with and mutual congratulation on how “good we are” in having come out in support of Bradley Manning and that we had done nothing.

Absolutely nothing.

I felt utterly foolish in having believed, after a decade of dealing with STWC that it would be anything other than it had always been. I saw it now, down to actual numbers, I could do the maths and of course, I was one of the last 120 people who, over the course of a decade, out of the 2 Million who had gathered in London on February 15th 2003 had finally come to realise that I was wasting my time.

As a final note about this meeting, it is very significant to my topic that it was Kate Hudson of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament who chaired the meeting.

Kate Hudson comes to particular prominence in my mind not because of any “notable achievements” towards negating the risk of nuclear war (have there been any?) but because of my recollection of Strasbourg in April 2009 when 25,000 police came to defend the NATO summit attended by a smug and self-assured Obama, the world chief of police and, to quote from Der Spiegel: “There was heavy street fighting between the NATO protesters and police” (See here).

I attended a meeting on that occasion, held amid all the angst of a still virile, youthful and savvy European resistance, at which Kate Hudson spoke scathingly of the youth ‘responsible for the violence’. I quote her specifically because KH made no mention of the level of ‘responsibility’ of 25,000 armed and aggressive police who used water cannon, fired teargas, intimidated and physically coerced (me personally, for example, and many others whom I know assuredly, who had come 500 miles simply to indicate protest by our presence). Scathing comments of this sort for young activists who understand and crave change with this level of commitment, willing to put themselves on the line (however misguided we might think they are) from a person who has been an abysmal failure in terms of effective action, effective leadership or guidance to effective action or even to the a effective discussion of the means to achieve it.

They want to be effective, Kate!

I feel that this is a quite shameful position to take and I think that this is the time to say so, now when the consequences of failed leadership and glaring lack of organisation begins to look unmistakably like treachery or even worse, the stupefying and insidiously lethargy-inducing subversion of armchair activism, which urges us ardently to inaction. Are these the roots of failure of British Activism?

If the youth of our time and their children have the good fortune to escape Nuclear War those historians whom Peter Tatchell spoke of, who will condemn Obama and praise Bradley Manning as a hero, will have nothing at all to say about Kate Hudson or CND. Absolutely nothing.

Before leaving, after a round of self-congratulatory applause, we were reminded to look out on the STWC website for notifications of future actions. But the fact is, Kate, I did look out on the website for actions on the occasion of the International Day of Action for Bradley Manning and there was nothing. Absolutely nothing.

If There is a Funny Side

Yes, look for the funny side. The whole meeting reminded me of a scene in the Monty Python film “The Life of Brian”, which raucously satirises the kind of institutionalised career activism that we are witnessing. Brian’s passionate commitment to ridding Palestine of the Romans leads him into a group of ‘hobby activists’ who spend most of their time discussing what they will call themselves; is it to be “The Judean People’s Liberation Front”? or perhaps the “Liberation Front of the People of Judea”? etc. Impatient for action Brian agrees to be the risk-taker who will paint the slogan “Romans Go Home” as agreed upon by the group, on the walls of the Roman fortress. Turned on by Brian’s passion and commitment a girl in the group decides to bed him. However, when Brian is arrested by the Romans and is being crucified on a hill-top the group is full of empty words with no tangible support and his new-found lover comes to his cross promising “never to forget him”.

There is always, of course a “brighter side of life”. It was difficult to find in this “important” meeting with its cynically philosophical “no action necessary” attitude to the situation of Bradley Manning. Thank you John Cleese!

The profusion of reverential words of praise and admiration with the persistent tone of resigned acceptance of his fate was quite disgusting; it had served no purpose other than the self-congratulatory “feel-good” of the pathetic “crowd” of 120 in attendance and I told them so. There is a sickening parallel between the military practice of dehumanising the enemy and the activities of institutionalised activism that dissolve matters of critical importance into abstraction by endlessly formalising its condemnation of outrageous violence and injustice into passionless academic analysis without ever engaging serious measures or even discussion of effective action that can be taken to prevent, obstruct, overcome, overturn or redress them.

The latter was richly in evidence in this meeting arranged at “such short notice” by STWC and the dearth of real action was never more evident in the entirely ineffective decade-long history of the Coalition that never has and never will Stop a War.

There is a not so Funny Side

I had barely begun to recover my train of thought after this meeting when an email arrived from PayDay Men’s Network. It had clearly not been intended for circulation so general as to reach me but it resulted from an email I had sent making a logical connection between the statements of the Israeli Ambassador to the UN urging the United States (or perhaps the Israeli government) to “wipe North Korea off the map”, presumably by the only means possible: Nuclear weapons and another made by an Israeli MK expressing the view that killing Arabs is “no problem”, to the subject matter of that nefarious document that is often connected with Zionism, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”.

But the answer came directed in writing unexpected:

Horrible title and I can’t listen to the video (no sound from my computer) This guy is the arrogant man who came to the International Day of Action and was so disparaging of people. Didi confronted him. He has a blog where he attacks the SWP and StW for good reasons.

He was yesterday at the StW meeting and is very friendly to me.

He is thanking Paul, who we know has the same anti-Semitic streak!

Of course, I took the opportunity to expose once again the use of the long-over used resort to the “anti-Semitism” card to deflect criticism in that cause, which pervades and overarches many other causes: the criminally expansionist psychosis of the Israeli government.

I had (probably mistakenly) defended this man in yet another petty conflict between rival competing “brands of activism” on the steps of St Martins in the Fields during that notorious International Day of inAction for Bradley Manning. But these matters that I candidly discuss may serve to illustrate the problem that quite often standing our ground on matters of principle causes us to take the bait that wastes our time coaxes us into ineffective measures or diverts us from purpose and undermines our real goals.

And so I found myself intervening between, on the one hand, one who seemed to be a committed campaigner for Bradley Manning but later undermined this impression by prancing about with an “I Love Bradley” sign hanging around his neck, playing into the theme of the already-mentioned sinister elements who would misrepresent Bradley Manning’s motives and undermine his cause among the still rampant homophobic elements of a community that hasn’t quite grasped an understanding of the truly ugly nature of discrimination. This same man would later call me “arrogant” and “disparaging” for my vocal criticism of STWC and later deride me as “anti-Semitic”. And on the other hand the advocate of a white-suited evangelist in a priest’s collar with a rich American accent and a shock of bleached, white hair strutting along the steps lambasting the crowd with ‘Fire and Brimstone’ from a megaphone for Bradley Manning that somehow gave our demonstration the appearance of a advert for a Barnum & Bailey’s Circus in Hyde Park.

Sadly, these two opposing forces represented the only evident, if surreal show of support for Bradley Manning evident on that day in London and I wonder if they serve more as a deterrent than an ‘inspiration’ to others.

Veterans For Peace

As a former Australian National Serviceman, conscripted into the Australian Military Forces at the time of the Vietnam War I have been involved in both the Australian StandFast organisation of Anti-War Veterans and the UK Veterans For Peace. The relationship has not always been smooth. I was completely unsurprised when I read this article at I can do no better or less than to quote the article in full:

Veterans for Peace 9/11 Truth Caucus Seeks to Publicize VFP’s Official Pro-9/11-Truth Stance

(Madison, WI) – Yesterday’s standing-room-only 9/11 truth presentation at the Veterans for Peace National Convention was followed by the 2013 VFP 9/11 Truth Caucus. First item of business: Overcoming the national leadership’s reluctance to publicize VFP’s official position demanding a new investigation of 9/11.

Since 2009, when Veterans for Peace officially adopted a resolution calling for a new investigation of 9/11, veterans at the grassroots level have been pushing the national leadership to publicize VFP’s pro-truth position and organize 9/11 truth events. But the national leadership has not been cooperative.

Phil Restino, a notable VFP 9/11 activist from the South Florida chapter, said: “Veterans for Peace has officially supported a new investigation of 9/11 for four years – but hardly anybody has heard about it!” Other VFP grassroots activists from Michigan, Arizona, California, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and elsewhere agreed that the national leadership’s unwillingness to publicize the group’s position, and follow it up with concrete actions, needs to change.

The caucus agreed to continue applying pressure on the national leadership. Other suggestions included reaching out directly to local VFP chapters, organizing 9/11 events at the local chapter level, and issuing press releases from local chapters publicizing VFP’s official pro-9/11-truth position.


I have perhaps, rather laboured my presentation of these matters. But I hope they serve to illustrate the perils of our situation of dependence on ‘institutionalised activism’ and provide some warnings for others. Many will simply groan and say “We know”. I know. But it has to be said.

If we are to overcome this disease we need better ways; alternative and effective ways of organising. This problem must be recognised, faced up to, discussed, addressed and overcome urgently. It’s CRUNCH–Time for global activism. We need the most peaceful and rational solution to a world run by criminals. The psychopaths who own Western Capitalism are committed to lawless violence and oppression of the vast majority (the 99%) of humanity. ALL of the possibilities for serious confrontation point almost certainly to incomprehensible catastrophe. It’s time for people who are capable of reason to start taking matters seriously, lifting their minds above the day-to-day routine of mind-numbing capitalism and, for those of us who already care, the placebo of institutionalised activism. It isn’t sufficient to meet occasionally for a soothing and reassuring pep-talk from a passionless leadership to reassure us that we are all doing what we can – there is no need to walk through that door that is meant only for us.

There is! And it’s urgent.

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