Dear Jeremy: it's time to speak out on Syria

An open letter to the Leader of the Labour party from concerned Labour party members, Momentum activists and socialists. To add your name, please email [email protected]

7 October 2016
Screen Shot 2016-10-07 at 14.37.30.png

Voice of America News: Scott Bobb reports from Aleppo, Syria, public domain.

Dear Jeremy,

We write as members of the Labour Party and Momentum, as socialist activists, or as other supporters of your leadership of the Labour Party. We agree wholeheartedly with your opposition to militarism and nuclear weapons, and your call for an end to British arms exports to countries such as Saudi Arabia. Yet we are concerned by your silence – thus far – on the ongoing slaughter of civilians by Russian and Assad-regime forces in Syria.

We share your scepticism about kneejerk military responses to the situation in Syria, such as the bombing campaign against ISIS proposed by David Cameron last autumn. We are not asking you to back Western interventions of this kind, but simply to say clearly and unequivocally that the actions of Assad and Russia in Syria are barbaric war crimes, and that you will seek to end them, and to hold their perpetrators to account.

We applaud your efforts, over decades, to end the crimes of brutal regimes supported by Western powers. But we do not believe that this exhausts the duties of anti-imperialists, socialists and peace activists in Western countries. The fact that Assad is supported not by the USA or Britain, but by Russia and Iran, does not make his crimes any less horrific, or the political future he represents for the people of Syria any less dismal. Nor does it mean that Western political leaders are powerless in acting to oppose these crimes.

We know only too well that there are those in the anti-war movement who will denounce any move critical of Russia, Iran, or Assad as tantamount to support for Western imperialist intervention. We also know that there are those on the right of British politics who will claim any such move as a concession to their policy of militaristic grandstanding. The debate on Syria has been polarised between these two positions – scrupulous “non-intervention” in the face of massive carnage enabled by Russian intervention, versus support for bombing campaigns as part of a Western “war on terror”. We have all been asked to take up a position in these terms. But the terms are false.

We appreciate your concern not to lend support to right-wing calls for fruitless bombing campaigns. But in the face of the horrors being perpetrated across Syria, with impunity, and above all by Russian and Assad-regime forces, we believe socialists and anti-war activists cannot simply look on in silence. We ask that you condemn, clearly and specifically, the actions of Assad and Russia in Syria, which have caused the overwhelming majority of civilian deaths and which present the biggest obstacle to any workable solution to the Syrian crisis.

We also urge you to lend your wholehearted support to practical measures to support civilians and pressure the regime to end its attacks, such as airdrops of aid to besieged civilians by British military forces. Guaranteeing delivery of humanitarian aid to civilians is not only a way to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people at risk of disease and starvation. It is also a non-violent and humanitarian way to pressure the regime into a negotiated political solution to the conflict, by undermining a key part of its strategy: the “kneel or starve” campaigns deployed against opposition areas since 2013. “Food not bombs” should be the rallying cry, not “Hands off Syria”, which only gives the Assad regime and Russia carte blanche to continue with their slaughter.

Failure to act on this issue now threatens to undermine practically and politically much of the work done over many years by the anti-war movement. The legacy of yourself and the anti-war movement over Syria must not be one of silence and inaction in the face of such momentous atrocities.

Yours fraternally,

Peter Hill, Oxford University UCU Hon. Secretary (personal capacity), Oxford and District Labour Party and Momentum

Mark Boothroyd, Unite Health National Industrial Sector Committee (personal capacity), Camberwell and Peckham CLP

James Nowlan, Labour Party and Momentum member

Luke Cooper, academic and campaigner

Andy Forse, Oxford Labour Party, Momentum National Committee

Roland Rance,  Jews Against Zionism, founder member of Palestine Solidarity Campaign

Mike Rowley, Labour City Councillor for Barton, Sandhills and North-East Headington (Oxford)

Adam Ramsay, journalist

Chris Fox, Wimbledon CLP, Thee Faction member

Christopher Roche, Bath UCU Vice President (personal capacity), Bath Trades Union Council President (personal capacity), Bristol West CLP

Becky Boumelha, Labour Campaign Against Prevent

Ashley Inglis, member of the Labour Party and Stop the War Coalition

Mark Price, Labour Party member, Momentum member (Welsh Labour Grassroots) and Community Councillor for Croesyceiliog

Chris Strafford, Communications Officer, University of Manchester UNISON

Vijay Jackson, Hastings and Rye CLP, Scottish Labour Young Socialists, Treasurer, Momentum Edinburgh, BAME Officer, Edinburgh Labour Students

William R Rolfe, Labour and Momentum member, Branch Secretary PCS Revenue and Customs South East Valuation Branch

Bill MacKeith, member of Labour Party, Momentum, National Union of Journalists

Liz Peretz, Labour Party and Momentum member, Oxford

Padraic Finn, Brent Stop the War

Lisa Dempster, Unison Knowsley branch and National disabled members committee, Momentum member

Patrick Murphy, NUT Executive member for West Yorkshire

Merlin Gable, Monmouth CLP

Andy Wilson, Hackney CLP

Steven Ellis, Streatham CLP

Alison Lord, Walthamstow CLP

Tony Aldis, Labour Party and Momentum member

Kris Stewart, Socialist activist

Neil Rogall, member of rs21 and UCU

Brian Parkin, member of rs21 and UCU, University of Leeds

Tom Cutterham, Labour Party, Momentum and UCU member, University of Birmingham

Miriyam Aouragh, academic and campaigner

Bethan Jones, Labour Party and Momentum member

Max Leak, Labour and Momentum member

Gary Budgen, Walthamstow CLP

Tom Travers, Labour Party member

Sam Doherty, Manchester Momentum

Kat Burdon-Manley, rs21 member, Unison

Emily McDonagh, Unite

Ed McNally

Barnaby Raine

Christopher Ford, Walthamstow Constituency Labour Party

Edd Mustill, Liverpool Riverside CLP and Momentum member

Tom Harris, Lewisham West and Penge CLP, Lewisham Young Labour

Christian Hill, Socialist Activist

Jaskiran Kaur Chohan, Labour Party and Momentum Member

Lynton North, Torridge & West Devon CLP / Momentum

Hannah Fox, Labour Party member

Omar Raii, Hornsey & Wood Green CLP

Tom Dale, Labour Party member, Hackney South & Shoreditch

Pete Radcliff, Broxtowe Momentum

Nathan Roberts, Lambeth Momentum

Sue Shaw, Labour and Momentum member, Henley CLP

Susan Pashkoff

Daniel Nichols, Romford CLP

Nick Hostettler, Streatham CLP, Lambeth Momentum

Phil Vellender, Hackney Labour Party, UCU HE member, Senior Lecturer

Tom Davies, Walthamstow CLP and NUJ member

Les Hearn, Holborn & St Pancras CLP, NUT member

Gabriel Pogrund

David Moynihan, Hackney Labour Party

Pete Firmin, Hampstead & Kilburn CLP and Momentum member

Jane Connor, Walthamstow West Labour Party

Sheen Gleeson, Hackney

Vivien Green

Mags Gainsborough

Tony Benson

Stephen Wood, Hayes & Harlington CLP, Hillingdon LG Unison

Nicholas Sebley, Labour Party member and Corbyn voter

Hannah Davies, Labour supporter


To add your name to this letter, please email [email protected]

Who is bankrolling Britain's democracy? Which groups shape the stories we see in the press; which voices are silenced, and why? Sign up here to find out.


We encourage anyone to comment, please consult the oD commenting guidelines if you have any questions.
Audio available Bookmark Check Language Close Comments Download Facebook Link Email Newsletter Newsletter Play Print Share Twitter Youtube Search Instagram WhatsApp yourData