Corbyn’s Stop The War speech interrupted by cries of ‘shame on you!’

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Corbyn’s Stop The War speech interrupted by cries of ‘shame on you!’

Protestor with Ukrainian flag thrown out as the former Labour leader defies demands from Keir Starmer not to speak at the event

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Jeremy Corbyn’s speech at a Stop The War rally in central London on Wednesday night was greeted with cries of “Shame on you” by a protester who held aloft a Ukrainian flag before being ushered out of the room by stewards.

The former Labour leader appeared to be unperturbed by threats of expulsion from the party as he ignored Sir Keir Starmer’s call for MPs and party members to distance themselves from the group’s anti-NATO stance on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

As he completed his speech the claps and cheers from Corbyn’s mainly elderly band of supporters were interrupted by shouts from one person in the crowd of “Where is your protest outside the Russian embassy?.. Shame on you… How dare you!” and “Where is your support for the people of Ukraine?”

Prior to Corbyn’s speech, Lindsey German, the Stop The War Coalition’s convener, and a former leading figure in the Socialist Workers Party, spoke of the “the war in Ukraine” but suggested Boris Johnson is “waging war against us at home.”

German also said of the current situation in Ukraine: “We should be very scared about this NATO expansion.

“The idea that NATO is a defensive alliance simply does not bear any reality when you look at the facts about NATO.”

Lindsey German speaks at a Stop the War Coalition rally in London on 2 March, 2022. (Lee Harpin)

She was loudly applauded by activists in the room after making these comparisons.

Jewish News later spoke with the man, who asked to remain anonymous, who had been marched out of the venue following his protest against Corbyn,

He said: “Jeremy Corbyn has spent his entire career blaming the world’s problems on NATO and continues now.

“In that speech he failed to welcome support for the government of Ukraine –  he sent no solidarity to President Zelensky.

“He has previously called for Ukraine to be demilitarised on television.

“He does not have the right to dictate to Ukrainians membership of NATO which they have wanted for years. Kyiv celebrated the 70th anniversary of the alliance in 2019. ”

A protestor is removed from a Stop the War Coalition rally in London on 2 March, 2022 (Lee Harpin)

The protester, who had personal reasons for opposing Corbyn’s stance over Ukraine, added:” The problem is wider than just him. Stop the War just deleted an article titled ‘In a game of great power politics, if we have to pick a side over Crimea, let it be Russia’.

“These are people who would have left Ukraine defenceless and denied them support, given their criticism of the actions the UK government has taken so far.

“There was not a single Ukranian flag at this rally, which sets them apart from all other anti war protests around the world who are showing support.

“They pretend to be anti-war but their politics would see Ukraine and potentially other Eastern European allies crushed by Russian aggression and war crimes.”

Chris Worrall, who was also in attendance at Wednesday’s rally, held under the banner of No War In Ukraine, also told Jewish News of his support for the anti-Corbyn protest.

Worrall, chair of the Polar and Limehouse local Labour party, said he was “disgusted there was no solidarity or mention of Zelinksy, a Jewish president of Ukraine, being labelled a Nazi in Corbyn’s entire speech.”

Speaking to around 250 seasoned anti-war activists, Corbyn said there was a “terrible loss on both sides” adding “it is important we get that message across.”

But the Islington North MP, who lost the Labour whip over his refusal to apologise for his statement in response to the EHRC antisemitism report, spoke angrily of the Russian oligarchs who he said had “made their money off of land and goods that was stolen at the end of the Soviet Union.”

Corbyn told the audience in the Conway Hall venue: “We join in with those very brave people in Russia who also face arrest and detention because they’ve spoke out against a regime run by and financed by some incredibly wealthy people that have been corrupting the political system in Russia just as much as they’ve tried to corrupt the political system here.”

He thanked the audience “for attending an anti-war meeting, because that has been what the Stop The War Coalition has been about since it was founded 20 years ago – to oppose war.”

Corbyn said the organisation “does what it says on the tin.”

Assessing the “terrible war in the Ukraine”, Corbyn said there could be “no justification” for the Russian forces’ “bombardment of civilian targets.”

He said “undoubtably what looks like war crimes are being committed.”

But Corbyn then said: ” When you speak out against a war, it can, as I’m sure everyone in this room will know, sometimes be quite a lonely place.”

Earlier veteran anti-war activist German accused the UK government of “escalation” in the war on Ukraine.

“We have to say we are against the war in Ukraine, full stop,” she said. “But we are against any escalation via our government. And we are against the war they are waging against us at home.

“We are not going to pay for their warmongering.

“We are not going to let them raise the money they are spending on military under the cover of this war while they make people suffer here at home. ”

Leaflets handed out during the event

Stop The War’s vice-president used his speech to claimed Labour leader Starmer and the Prime Minister were now pursuing identical foreign policies.

He attacked Tony Blair and reference Peter Mandleson in relation to his friendship with wealthy Russians.

Labour John McDonnell did not show up to the meeting, even though he had been billed as a speaker.

He had been amongst the 11 MPs to have received a letter from the Labour whips office warning him he could face action if he spoke at the rally.

Corbyn was also sent the same letter, but unlike McDonnell and the other MPs, the former leader did not remove his support for a Stop The War statement last month which condemned NATO.

After the Stop The War meeting ended, copies of the Marxist group Counterfire’s newspaper were handed out. The group’s leading members include German and another former SWP colleague Chris Nineham, who chaired Wednesday’s meeting.

On its back page Counterfire featured an article headlined No War In Ukraine with the words Stop NATO’s Warmongering.

Written ahead of Russia’s invasion, the journalist Vladimir Unkovski-Korica claimed: “In reality Russia is threatening invasion because of vital security interests.”

He adds: “The eastward expansion of NATO reflect the West’s desire to encircle and weaken Russia..”

Meanwhile, a separate three page leaflet, handed out by a male standing outside the venue in Red Lion Circle repeated the Kremlin’s claims regarding the “breaking of the Minsk II agreement by Ukranian far-right neo-Nazi forces against Russian civilians.”

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