Dear Tristram Hunt MP,
You have probably never heard of me, and there is no reason why you should. But I felt moved to write to you because a rather freakish and unusual series of events has brought our names into the same orbit. Today, while driving home, I heard on the radio that you have asked Jeremy Corbyn to distance himself from the Stop the War organization by not attending their annual fundraising dinner, because according to you STW is a ‘disreputable’ organization.
Had I heard this on any other weekend, I would have thought that this was just another attempt by a rightwing Labour MP to undermine Jeremy Corbyn and the Stop the War movement.
I wouldn’t have been happy to hear this, of course. Because unlike you, what I find really disreputable is when governments deceive their populations in order to wage reckless wars of aggression that result in hundreds of thousands of deaths and destabilize entire societies and regions.
I find it disreputable when politicians entirely ignore the death and destruction that these wars cause. Of course we are not going to agree there, because you are one of those politicians, who has supported all of the wars that the Stop the War movement has campaigned against , and you continue to advocate new ‘interventions’, as you did last week.
So it is only natural that you would seek to attack the most prominent anti-war movement in the country. But this time I had a personal interest in this matter, because your dark references to STW’s ‘comments about Islamic State’ referred to a blog post that I wrote last week which has attracted considerable and – for my part – unusual attention.
If you read Buzzfeed, for example, you will be aware that our names are linked together in a bulletin which cites a quote from that blog and says that your intervention followed criticism of Stop the War because ‘journalist Matt Carr appeared to praise the “international solidarity” of the Islamic State.’
You may also be aware that your fellow MP and Shadow Environment Secretary Lisa Nandy described that blog post as ‘extraordinary’ on John Piennar’s Radio 5 politics show. Now I know that politicians are busy, and I very much doubt whether you or Ms Nandy read the blog post in question, or the piece that I posted two days later to clarify the unexpected controversy that it generated.
Nevertheless, as a historian, I’m sure that you know that a reliance on partial and incomplete sources is not always useful when making judgments and assessments about the past. On this occasion however, your training seems to have deserted you. If you had read my post, you would have seen that I criticized Hilary Benn’s cynical attempt to appropriate the International Brigades in order to justify a Tory bombing campaign.
I also attempted to point out one of the key themes in the history of the jihadist movement; the notion of transnational solidarity with oppressed Muslims as a recruiting and motivational tool. Now in retrospect, I think I could have developed this idea more fully, and that if I had, it might have made my meaning clearer, but even so a cursory reading of my blog would have made it absolutely clear that I was not ‘praising’ Daesh, or putting it on the same moral level as the International Brigades.
Neither you or Ms Nandy appear to have given it such a reading, in your haste to use my words to condemn Stop the War as pro-Islamist and pro-terrorist. It’s unlikely therefore, that you read some of my other blog posts, such as the following:
And you can also find this:
And more recently:
All these posts are available on the Stop the War website. If you had read them then you would have understood perfectly well that I do not ‘praise’ Daesh, and that Stop the War doesn’t either.
But your latest intervention suggests that you have already got what you wanted from my piece, and that rather than engage with any of the arguments expressed there, you would prefer to use Stop the War as an instrument to undermine the leader of the Labour Party, whose authority and mandate you have never recognized.
And no matter how much you try to hold the moral high ground, I can’t help feeling that using the movement for such blatant political ends is far more disreputable than anything I have said.
But then we are not going to agree there, either, are we?