Back in June, Labourspokesperson Jim Murphy sent out an e-mail to Labour Party members on the subject of Armed Forces Day. Darrall Cozens from Coventry NW CLP sent a reply back (which was also printed in the July/Aug edition of Socialist Appeal) taking up some of his points. Since then a few more e-mails have been sent. Here we reproduce the texts of this interesting debate.
Back in June, Labourspokesperson Jim Murphy sent out an e-mail to Labour
Party members on the subject of Armed Forces Day. Darrall Cozens from
Coventry NW CLP sent a reply back (which was also printed in the
July/Aug edition of Socialist Appeal) taking up some of his points.
Since then a few more e-mails have been sent. Here we reproduce the
texts of this interesting debate.
The original e-mail from Jim Murphy:
In just two days on the 30th June the country will be celebrating Armed Forces Day.
This important event gives us a chance to thank those who serve.
As Party members we often ask you to get involved in activity that can
take up a lot of your time. For Armed Forces Day I only want to ask for
three seconds of your time – that’s all it would take to say ‘thank you’
to a member of our Armed Forces.
That must be the easiest thing we have ever asked you to do.
You may have read about soldiers who had been pallbearers at a corporal’s funeral being turned away from a pub on Monday.
Armed Forces day is a day to say thank you – but it’s also a day to
ensure that discrimination against the Armed Forces becomes a thing of
The reply from Darrall Cozens:
you for your email asking me to join in the campaign to say thank you
to our Armed Forces. I feel honoured that after having been in the
Labour Party since October
1964 I am receiving personally addressed emails from the shadow
Minister of Defence! Having said that I do have some issues about the
intent of your email.
and I know that the bulk of recruits to the Armed Forces come from our
traditional supporters, the working class. This is even more so at times
of recession when job
prospects for working class youth in many areas are even lower than
you look at the class profile of the more than 400 British soldiers that
have been killed in Afghanistan alone, it is overwhelmingly working
class young men and women
who are sacrificing themselves in the heat and dust of that country. In
that respect the only thing that has changed since the first Afghan
wars of the 1830s/40s is that today the bodies of the fallen are brought
what is it that they are fighting and dying for? You will say to stop
terrorism, to stop Al Quaeda, to stop the Taliban. I will say that
Afghanistan is a failed state
riddled with corruption where the powerful use their positions in the
state to fill their pockets and make millions from the drug trade. Even
one of Karzai’s own brothers was recently stopped in Saudi Arabia with
suitcases stuffed full of dollar bills.
while British youth are dying out there fighting the Taliban, NATO and
its allies are negotiating with the same Taliban, with the enemy, on two
issues: on allowing trucks
to pass through Taliban-controlled territory to supply forward bases
and for which the Taliban are handsomely paid in dollar bills and
secondly, on the role they will play when British and other forces are
withdrawn. And it is the Taliban which condemns women
to the burka, to second class citizenship, to being confined to the
home, and even worse condemns the whole of the population to living
under the religious edicts of the Taliban. So many wasted lives of
British and Afghani people to establish a theocratic
state that will be no different to what existed before the invasion.
there will be one difference. The state will be propped up with £bns
from the west as the Afghan GDP is not even big enough to cover military
and police expenditure,
never mind education and health. I will make a prediction. After the
withdrawal of British and other forces, Afghanistan will be faced with
two scenarios – the division of the country into opposing warring states
under the control of rival warlords or a constant
battle between these rivals to control the Afghan state itself which
will offer rich rewards to whoever controls it. The ordinary Afghan
people, whose needs we as a Labour Party should be fighting for, will
still be condemned to producing wealth for others
to plunder. And all of this will be happening under a state where
rights that we take for granted are systematically eroded.
what of our working class heroes, our British troops? They have given
all they can and many have made the ultimate sacrifice with their lives.
It is apt that you refer
in your email to pallbearers at a corporal’s funeral being turned away
from a British pub. That happened in Coventry where I have lived for the
past 45 years. The pub is question has always had a policy of turning
away potential customers whose faces did not
fit. Ii is mainly frequented by students from the nearby Coventry
University and many Black and Asian students in particular have suffered
at the hands of the pub’s discriminatory entry policy. The soldiers
concerned should not have been barred and neither
should other customers whose skin colour was not of the right type.
recognise the heroism and bravery of these soldiers who once having
joined up obey orders without question. My father did the same from 1936
to 1951 in Afghanistan, Burma,
Palestine, the Rhine crossing and Defence at home. After his sacrifice
he came home to a land "fit for heroes" and spent his remaining years
working on trawlers and in factories only to be rewarded with a few
years of retirement before death, as happens to
many working class men.
real reason we are in Afghanistan is economic and geopolitical. It is a
staging post for western interests given the proximity of Russia, China
and Iran. It also has
vast reserves of oil, gas, precious metals, gold and precious stones
such as diamonds and lapis lazuli . It was not for nothing that the
Russians invested £800m to try and exploit the natural resources and
their soldiers paid for it dearly with their lives.
Now it is the turn of British working class youth to fight and die for
the interests of multi-national corporations and suppliers of war
materials and services.
salute, as I have said, the courage of working class youth who ask no
questions and do as they are ordered. But please do not ask me or anyone
else to join in the hypocrisy
of celebrating the death and destruction of British and Afghan working
people and their families.
Darrall gets a reply:
Many thanks for your email.
I am glad that you are supporting the anti-discrimination campaign. It
is essential that those who protect our nation have the protection they
deserve here at home.
you are right to say that many of those who join the Army are from
working class backgrounds. The Army provides an excellent career and
given important skills and insights which, with the right support
post-Service, can be extremely useful in civilian life.
are right that there are huge challenges in Afghanistan. I disagree
with the view that we are there for geo-political reasons. We want and
need a stable
region, but the reason for the conflict was September 11th
and the reason we are there today is because we want to see a more
stable country which can never again be an incubator for terrorism. The
actions of our Forces can help bring greater security
to our streets at home.
is an issue that we both care enormously about, and I attach a copy of a
speech I gave on this matter, which may be of interest to you. I
must all find ways to ensure safety and security in Afghanistan is
sustainable. My wider worry is that with a lack of political progress
that stabilises the country the military achievements may be undermined.
Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.
Rt. Hon. Jim Murphy MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Defence
And sends one back!
your reply to my letter on the Armed Forces and Afghanistan. The reply
demonstrates that you have read my letter and you have taken the time in
your busy schedule to reply. I also thank you for a copy of Labour’s
Defence Review which I shall also read and comment on at a later date.
in relation to the discrimination practised by some establishments,
such as Brown’s here in Coventry, against members of the Armed Forces. I
think that the action of Brown’s was shameful but it reflected the
general policy of discrimination carried out by Brown’s against anyone
who was not acceptable to some of the staff at Brown’s. Black and Asian
customers have borne the brunt of this policy in the past. All
customers, irrespective of ethnicity or being in uniform, should have
the right to be served and should only be barred for behaviour that
society in general finds reprehensible – drunkenness; lewd, sexist,
racist language; general unruly behaviour and so on. So in this respect I
disagree with your comment that "those who protect our nation have the
protection they deserve here at home" as this implies that members of
the Armed Forces should have rights that others do not enjoy. Everyone
should have the right to be protected, not just those who protect.
you say that soldiers are protecting the nation. You, like me, are a
member of the Labour Party and we in the Party have long known for
decades that there is no such thing as the nation. Given that we live in
a class society there are basically two nations – those that have and
those who do not have, that is the rich and the poor. The issue was once
again graphically illustrated in yesterday’s Guardian (Aug 13th) where
the author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark
Haddon, revealed that he and wealthy people like him have been asked to
contribute nothing in these times of austerity while many people have
been caused real suffering. We, the bedrock of the LP, see CEOs taking
home huge salaries – in 2011 up 41% in the top 25 FTSE 100 companies –
while low paid workers in the public sector suffer a third year of pay
freezes. We suffer cuts in social and public services while the rich get
richer as the bankers in particular still enjoy huge bonuses and pay
rises. So which nation is being protected by our soldiers?
you agree with me that many who join the Army are from working class
backgrounds but then you say that the Army can teach them skills that
could be useful in civilian life. Are you being serious? Are you saying
that as we have more than one million young people between 16 and 24
without jobs, rather than fighting to create jobs in civilian life we
should welcome the chance of training they will get by joining the Army?
Society is falling apart as working class people, with youth and women
at the forefront, are being made to pay for a crisis of capitalism
triggered by the banks, and all we in the LP can say is that the Army
can provide an escape valve for some! Where is the vision we once had of
creating a society where the wealth produced by our labour was owned
and controlled by us so that we could decide how that wealth was spent?
Such a vision was contained in the old Clause 1V, Part 4, of our
constitution. The right wing in our Party, seduced by the apparent boom
in capitalism, ejected these aims but even on our present Party card we
still speak of creating a community where "power, wealth and opportunity
are in the hands of the many not the few". Are these just words on
paper to be achieved by the impossible dream of a "responsible
capitalsm"? From the words and the actions of our leadership, it would
Afghanistan itself and our reason for being there and here, as is to be
expected, you disagree with me. You state that we are not there for
"geo-political reasons" but to create a "stable region" and a "stable
country" and because of September 11th. There were, in fact, two
September 11ths. The first occurred in 1973 in Chile where the
democratically elected president Salvador Allende, was overthrown and
killed in a bloody coup planned, orchestrated and paid for by the CIA of
our "ally" the USA. 30,000 activists in the labour and trade union
movement, ordinary men and women who worked for a better society, paid
the ultimate price of being assassinated, tortured and killed. But when
you refer to September 11th, you refer to the barbarous attacks on
civilians in the USA with the destruction by terrorist hijackers of the
Twin Towers. If we have deployed troops in a country in the Middle East
because of the New York attacks, why did we not invade Saudi Arabia as
19 of the 20 hijackers were from that country? And why, immediately
after the attacks, were Saudi citizens in the USA put on hastily
organised flights to go back to their country?
will reply that they may have been Saudis but they were members of Al
Qaeda or even Taliban. Can we ask where these organisations came from?
Were they not created and financed by the USA, Britain and other western
countries, which channelled funds through the Pakistani secret service
the ISI, to create a fighting force to oust the Russians from
Afghanistan? So western powers created a Frankenstein monster that they
lost control over. And what are these powers now doing? They are
negotiating with and paying over huge sums of money to the very people
who were implicated in the events of September 11th.
my first reply to you I spoke of the the corrupt regime of Karzai that
working class youth in uniform are sacrificing their lives to protect.
Amongst many Afghanis here in the UK Karzai is referred to as the Mayor
of Kabul as he has no power outside of that city. I spoke of this
brother arriving in Saudi Arabia with suitcases stuffed full of $ bills.
Now we have the revelations of a $900m banking scandal involving the
finance ministry. You are right when you say that Afghanistan is an
incubator for terrorism, but to continue with the analogy it is western
countries that supplied the heat of money and organisation so that the
eggs of terrorism could hatch. I also think that you realise the
futility of the whole affair when you state
your "wider worry is that with a lack of political progress that
stabilises the country the military achievements may be undermined". So
here we have it in a nutshell. Working class youth from western nations
will continue to die to prop up a corrupt regime that serves western
interests as it provides at present a more "stable" base than Iraq to
protect oil supplies and trade routes given the developments in Iran and
former USSR countries, in other words geo-political reasons.
what else can we expect? As Carl von Clausewitz once wrote, "War is the
continuation of politics by other means". If you have a policy at home
that favours the rich and powerful and penalises working people for the
crisis of capitalism, then your foreign policy, especially in relation
to war, will also have the same objective. And that means using the
bedrock of our political support, working class youth, to defend the
interests, investments and profits of multinational corporations. On the
other hand a socialist policy at home that defended working class
people and their livings standards would also produce a foreign policy
that did not lead to the invasion and domination of countries like
Afghanistan. That is the minimum that we should expect from a LABOUR
shadow Minister of Defence.