Britain’s leading publicist for the Assad regime, Vanessa Beeley, whose recent Bristol meeting we reported on last week, is capping her tour of the UK with a meeting in London on Wednesday. This particular event has some particularly bizarre features.
For one thing, it is taking place in the Marx Memorial Library, a hallowed institution of the British left based in a building that has been host to London Radical and Socialist organisations since the 1870s (both William Morris and Lenin worked there.
Beeley on the other hand swims in rather different waters. In her time she has been hosted by various conspiracy gatherings and sites from an intertwined nexus that includes Alternative View, UK Column, and 21st Century Wire. All of these groups are somewhere on the libertarian right and she has eventually found a permanent home as Associate Editor at 21st Century Wire. This site was created in 2009 as a climate-change denying project, linked to the US InfoWars, and is currently supporting Donald Trump, and providing apologetics for his Islamophobic travel ban.
But the bizarreness of Beeley’s meeting does not end with this incongruous coupling of venue and political alignment. The principal host of her meeting is an organisation called Socialist Fight (SF). Their view on Syria was defined some years ago:
‘We are for an Anti-Imperialist United Front with Assad. We demand that Assad arms the working class and call for the enlisting of all the people in the army against the mercenaries and Imperialism. But we do not support Assad.’Despite the final qualification, I guess Beeley could live with that. However SF also has a rather equivocal position on the Islamic State (ISIS). Initially it decided that ISIS was a tool of US imperialism and should be opposed accordingly. But at some point it seems to have shifted its evaluation, and in its most recent statement of What We Stand For says:
‘Whilst giving no political support to the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Sunni and Shia militias in Iraq, Hamas or Fatah in Palestine, Gaddafi (as was) in Libya, Assad in Syria, the ‘Islamic State’ in Syria and Iraq, the theocratic regime in Iran or the Donbass leadership in Eastern Ukraine we recognise US-led world imperialism as the main enemy of humanity and so advocate critical support and tactical military assistance from the working class to all those fighting for the defeat of imperialism.’Now that is a rather convoluted sentence but it’s hard to construe it as anything other than a call for ‘critical support and tactical military assistance’ to ISIS. Given that Beeley and friends tend to label anyone who says ‘boo’ to Bashar-al Assad as an ISIS supporter, it’s difficult to see how she can swallow that.
On second thought, perhaps it won’t be so difficult: SF considers its main enemy to be the Free Syrian Army, just as Assad did in 2013 when ISIS took over Raqqa, as the diary of an anti-ISIS activist inside the city, published in Sunday’s Observer, makes clear:
‘I will never forget the time when Daesh [ISIS] first appeared on the streets of our city. At first, opposition forces surrounded the fighters who occupied the government buildings. We were optimistic. But then everything changed. The Free Syrian Army began to weaken … Its soldiers were hit by repeated government air strikes. Daesh fought back, broke the FSA’s siege and quickly took over our helpless city.’Vanessa Beeley finds the ISIS terrorist label a useful smear to use against her critics, but the history is that Assad and ISIS acted in concert against the Free Syrian Army, and that earlier Assad’s security forces helped build up Al Qaeda in Iraq, and that now Assad depends on Hezbollah, Iran and Russia to maintain power in Damascus.
We should support those Syrians who struggle for a Syria free of foreign domination and free of terrorism. Beeley does not.
- Supporters of Syrian freedom will be picketing Vanessa Beeley’s London appearance this Wednesday. Please join us! Picket from 6.30 pm, Marx Memorial Library, Wednesday 1st March.
Image from the 2014 Kesh Malek campaign: Assad + ISIS = #SameShit.