S.B. | Monday 18 July 2016 | GMT 13:10 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, possesses a worrying set of beliefs about the world that he endorses through his remarks, political appointments and political associations. They do at least have coherence, and boil down to an unholy trinity that manifests itself in his reaction to various international issues: his distaste for the United States and the other Western powers, his unqualified pacifism and his ideological blindness to evil.
Corbyn and his fellow-believers often endorse causes – from Russia to terrorists in Palestine – that stem from a willingness to oppose the United States and its foreign policy everywhere. Distrust of America, voiced by the left across Europe and Latin America, has its roots in the Cold War. In Europe, this stemmed from much of the Left’s delusions about the Soviet Union. Moreover, Soviet communism’s sympathisers within the Labour party even had their own name: “fellow travellers”. Although the tide of Soviet sympathy receded in the fifties and sixties with the USSR’s crushing of dissent in Hungary and Czechoslovakia, the growing knowledge of wartime atrocities and the brutality of the Gulag, the impression of those years remain on the far left. Chomsky-esque tropes about American economic imperialism remain standard issue. The United States remains the principal upholder of the international order, and a bastion of global democracy and liberalism. That is why the Left’s rabid antipathy to it matters.
Then we take pacifism – the CND and the Stop the War Coalition are two good examples of leftist, effectively pacifist groups in the UK. Here we see the opposition to war in all its forms, and the irrational and frankly isolationist belief that we can shut the world out and wish war away. Despite this, Corbyn puts this strain of thought into practice in his beliefs. Finally, the ideological blindness to evil. This perhaps is the root cause of anti-Americanism on the Left, in that it is the origin of the early infatuation with the USSR, but also leads to support for almost equally indefensible, but more modern left-wing regimes and organisations because of sympathy for their politics. There is a long string of cases in which Corbyn and his allies have expressed contemptible views on foreign and defence policy that stem from these three beliefs.
To begin, we can take modern leftist regimes in Latin America; Cuba and Venezuela, to be precise. The former is an impoverished dictatorship with no representative democracy and that bans all political dissent and the latter is another failure of left-wing South American strong-man populism. Venezuela now sees an ever-deepening recession, runaway inflation, one of the highest murder rates in the world and a president desperately trying to circumvent his own legislature. What is Jeremy Corbyn’s opinion on these regimes? His membership of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign and “Hands off Venezuela!” give a clear enough indication. Why? Quite simply, the confluence of two of the bases of the far Left’s foreign policy dogma; hatred of the United States (both the Castro and Maduro governments regularly denounce American “imperialism” and portray themselves as victims of a US economic conspiracy) and ideological blindness; Cuba is a communist dictatorship and Venezuela is under the rule of the PSUV, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela.
The case of military intervention demonstrates Corbyn’s worldview once again. He has opposed military intervention in or against Iraq in 1990, 1998, 2003 and 2014. There is a reasonable case to be made against the bloody and poorly-planned invasion of Iraq in 2003, but the other cases? Refusing to prevent the occupation of a sovereign state, Kuwait, in 1990? He was a teller during the 2014 vote and so did not vote, but has since indicated he would rescind air strikes against Islamic State in Iraq – a campaign begun at the request of the legitimate Iraqi government to fight one of the most awful armed groups in modern history. He opposed bombing Islamic State again, in Syria in 2015. Of course, these campaigns were led by the United States, so his opposition is unsurprising. Again, he refuses to countenance British military action abroad, stemming from his immovable pacifist leanings.
Russia and its history offer another useful insight into the ‘Corbyn doctrine’. He has appeared on the Kremlin’s propaganda outfit in the West, Russia Today, on numerous occasions. He wrote an article for the Stop the War Coalition (since taken down) refusing support to the pro-European Ukrainian government, advocating non-intervention in the face of a Russian invasion. His spin doctor, Seamus Milne, regularly wrote in support of the Putin government and its actions in Ukraine (explicitly denouncing American and NATO support for the Ukrainian government).
Corbyn and his friends are happy to pontificate about international law when the United States is in breach as demonstrated with Iraq in 2003, but when Russia invades other nations with far more regularity and far more sinister motives they are actually defended. Milne sees Russia’s actions through the ridiculous prism of a nation fighting the ever-present bogeyman of Western imperialism; “Putin’s absorption of Crimea is […] clearly defensive”, he says. The mad hatred of America of the British hard left results in support for those who wish to undermine our alliances and the political integrity of Europe – the government of Vladimir Putin.
If we dig further into Corbyn’s spin doctor’s views, in fact, we find things even more worrying. He is widely known for his defence of Josef Stalin’s regime in the Soviet Union, a government that is almost a synonym for “indefensible”. How can the deaths of tens of millions through murder and mismanagement possibly be seen as a success? Through the distorting prism of ideological blindness! The Soviet Union was a communist state, Seumas Milne is a Marxist, and therefore, in his eyes the USSR must be defended.
The Israel-Palestine conflict is another foreign policy issue that lies close to the hearts of much of the far Left, including Corbyn. This issue is self-evidently not clear-cut; Israel pursues an awful settlement policy in the West Bank that sees Palestinians repeatedly turfed out of their homes and the gradual encroachment on Palestinian territory. But opposition to the Israeli settlement policy does not require somebody to tolerate acts of terrorism against Israeli citizens or tolerate groups whose raison d’être is the destruction of the state of Israel. To veer to that extreme suggests an antipathy, not to Israeli government policy, but to the Middle East’s only liberal democracy in itself. Yet Corbyn does just this.
Corbyn was happy to refer to representatives of Hamas and Hezbollah as “friends” in a speech in 2009. He has since defended this as a mere pleasantry, and his efforts to communicate with them as a necessary part of seeking peace; yet he does not ever reach out to the hard-right settler parties in the Knesset, who at least do not have Islamophobia baked into their constitutions (unlike Hamas’ official anti-Semitism). Moreover, he managed, at the launch of an inquiry into anti-Semitism in Labour (the fact that they are even having one is testament to the detrimental impact of less than a year of hard Left leadership) no less, to liken Israel to “various self-styled Islamic states or organisations” – I will leave the implications of that phrase to your mind. So Corbyn is not opposed to Israeli policy, but to Israel itself. Unsurprisingly, Israel is a strong American ally and was in conflict with various Soviet-inclined Arab regimes (such as Nasser’s in Egypt) during the Cold War. The role of the United States certainly helps explain the far Left’s obsession with Israel.
The final issue to look at lies closer to home, in Northern Ireland. Jeremy Corbyn and the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, are long-standing supporters of Irish republicanism and Sinn Fein. Corbyn thought it appropriate to meet with Gerry Adams during The Troubles, whilst Adams was leader of the political arm of an organisation murdering British citizens and that had attempted to assassinate a sitting British prime minister. This is perhaps vaguely defensible on the grounds of peace seeking; but, as with Israel, Corbyn has never shown any interest in engaging with the violent extremists of the other side, such as the UVF. Indeed, McDonnell’s support is even more explicit, praising the “armed struggle” and “bombs and bullets” of the IRA in 2003. Sinn Fein’s leftist credentials (in spite of their social conservatism) seems to have led to Corbyn and McDonnell’s blind-eye-turning to their brutal terrorism, and a tendency to oppose military action by a Western power (in this case that of the British army) may have contributed as well. It certainly fits the pattern.
So what is the ‘Corbyn doctrine’? Opposition to the West, unconditional support for all forms of left wing politics and the unqualified rejection of war as a means of solving conflicts irrespective of the cost of inaction. As we’ve seen, this leads to support for all manner of unsavoury and downright awful causes, and a strange self-flagellating approach to Britain and her place in the world. I’m not sure those beliefs fit into the broader history of Labour thinking on foreign policy and I am positively sure that they are not good for Britain and the world.