The Absence of Moral Authority Within the Labour Right

The framing goes like this for those in the centre of the Labour party: Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership is sympathetic to anti-liberal extremists and reflexively anti-western.

Does reflexive anti-imperialism exist? Sure; there are simplistic variants of all political positions. It is not an unreasonable assumption, however, that the quest for geopolitical and economic supremacy most adequately describes larges swathes of western foreign policy, and that humanitarianism is all too often subservient to amoral geopolitics.

I don’t know to what extent the the supposed supremacy of our values provides a by-definition justification for the support of say, Salafist fascism among many Labour centrists - or whether they are simply selectively ignorant. It is a truism that there is no such thing as a benevolent great power — hence our only defence against a system characterised by an imperial republic in competition with a variety of repressive authoritarian regimes is to diffuse power amongst citizens and transnational organisations. Our internal liberal values are taken as proof that our external policy is necessarily moral, and this is a clear mistake.

Centrist MP John Woodcock seems to be able to support the Saudi genocide in Yemen one one hand, yet maintain (rightful) indignation over the crimes of Assad on the other. This selective outrage oddly overlaps with those of countries aligned against the US, with a markedly different standard for those states positively aligned. A cynical interpretation of inability to condemn western aligned dictatorships would be that Woodcock is thoroughly a realist; one who wants a strategic and economic advantage for the UK at the cost potentially millions of deaths in Yemen. But Woodcock is no Kissinger, he appears genuine in his moral convictions, even if his politics is de facto evil. My assumption is that he has fallen into the fallacy of many neoconservatives, that our domestic politics necessarily validates our alliances — to reject this is to affirm that Western foreign policy has been built for decades on criminal alliances that shame our moral standing in the world.

David Miliband is a darling of the Labour right, yet in office, worked to undermine attempts to ban the use of indiscriminate cluster munitions, he was likely complicit in illegal rendition of individuals to countries where they were liable to be tortured, and intervened to prevent the justice system from investigating the likely war crimes of Israeli Minister Tzipi Livni during Operation Cast Lead, less the rule of law should damage our strategic alliances.

Jack Straw prevented the extradition of the Pinochet, Tony Blair illegally blocked investigations into potentially troubling relationships between BAE and Saudi Arabia, and supported the brutal Israeli invasion of Lebanon and use of tactics that amounted to a form of collective punishment. The scale of civilian deaths supported directly, logistically, rhetorically or in tertiary by the Labour centre erodes any moral authority. If Corbyn and the Labour left were the most two dimensional advocates of Republican violence against civilians during the troubles, as they are sometimes portrayed — the Labour right would still have no moral authority over the left.

It can seem overdone to list the moral failings of yesterday’s Labour figures, a whiny trope of the left, yet the position of about a third of the PLP and a small minority of member, have not shifted — a position that can only be adequately described as a thoroughly neoconservative outlook, with authoritarian reflexivity in response to internal security threats. Its interpretation of Islamic extremism is one entirely based upon an ideological conflict with liberal values, abstracted from any understanding of wider geopolitical and social factors. A Labour Right controlled party would not stand up for human dignity abroad, and would repeat the mistakes of the last decade without hesitation.