Big issues in brief

Corbyn: The archetypal anti-British traitor

Antisemitic, Nazi-backed, Stalinist, pro-Putin, pro-IRA, pro-Hezbollah Labour leader poses threat to democracy

For someone who has only once voted for Labour (in the 2005 general election) and openly admits that Corbyn has flaws, I spend a lot of space on this blog backing him up. But that’s because he is constantly on the receiving end of rabid and unjustified media smears, designed to oust him before each election.

Neoliberal Labour MPs are complicit in this treatment of Corbyn, despite the party’s membership twice electing him as leader — in spite of the smears. In fact, the blatantness of the communist spy smears earlier this year, combined with the falling popularity of Theresa May, enabled Corbyn’s Labour Party to take the lead over the Conservatives in YouGov and Survation polls published in early March. There has been a slight drop in support for Labour in late March, and it remains to be seen how big an impact the latest barrage of antisemitism claims will have on his popularity in the run-up to the English local elections of 3rd May — affecting all 32 London boroughs, 34 metropolitan boroughs, 68 district and borough councils, 17 unitary authorities and five Greater London mayoralties.

Let’s take a brief look at how Corbyn is portrayed in the national media — including in supposedly centre-left titles such as The Guardian and The Independent — and how they compare with his well-evidenced record. Although, if you’re pressed for time, I think the subtitle does enough to illustrate the absurdity of the extreme, contradictory language used to portray him.

The claims, in brief

  1. Corbyn is pro-Putin, because he refused to jump to conclusions on Skripal
  2. Corbyn was opportunistic to criticise Tory double standards on Russia
  3. Corbyn sold British secrets to a Soviet spy in the 1980s
  4. Corbyn is an IRA-sympathiser, because he’s met with IRA members
  5. Corbyn’s policies, such as rail and utility renationalisation, are Stalinist
  6. Corbyn is antisemitic, or has facilitated its spread within the Labour Party

What the national British media claimed vs. what the evidence reveals

Claim 1

Corbyn is pro-Putin

Jeremy Corbyn is pro-Putin, because he didn’t rush to condemn Putin or the Russian state as a whole for the Skripal poisoning, and he and his team have previously shown themselves to have close links with Russia.

The reality

Corbyn rightly did not jump to conclusions about the source of the Novichok nerve agent used to poison former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury this March. Although he strongly condemned the attack, Corbyn came under harsh criticism for refusing to immediately and directly blame Putin or the Russian state for ordering the attempted assassination, especially once Foreign Minister Boris Johnson had told the public that Russia was to blame. In fact, Johnson claimed in a televised interview that Porton Down defence research laboratory, which has been investigating the nerve agent used to poison Skripal, told him that Russia was categorically to blame. This week, Porton Down issued a statement in which they clarified that they have been unable to prove the source of the nerve agent (and that it is not part of their remit), while the Foreign Office scrambled to delete a tweet from last month which claimed that Porton Down had confirmed the source as being Russia. I suspect that very few people doubt that high-level Russian involvement was to blame, Corbyn included. However, the Russian state is a complex setup, with various factions vying for power and influence — whilst Putin undoubtedly has great power, he is not necessarily aware or in full control of everything that happens in government and intelligence agencies. That’s not to absolve him of responsibility — he is a cruel dictator who is responsible for great repression of the Russian people and interference abroad. However, the approach by which May and her cabinet made instant accusations and escalated the situation by immediately expelling diplomats without solid evidence, was very damaging to Britain’s diplomatic position, and has left Russia able to expel twice as many British diplomats as Britain has expelled Russians. Corbyn’s preferred approach, to deal with the issue through dialogue, could have prevented this escalation, or had more reliable evidence later come to light, bought the UK time to formulate a more effective strategy by which to deal with Russia.

Claim 2

Corbyn is opportunistic

Jeremy Corbyn was opportunistic to use Prime Minister’s Questions to highlight the fact that Conservatives are financially backed by Russian oligarchs and have double standards on their approach towards Russia, at a time when he should have been uniting with the government to condemn Russia for Skripal’s attack.

The reality

Corbyn did strongly and in no uncertain terms condemn the actions of the perpetrators of the attack. However, it would be highly undemocratic to suggest that it was inappropriate of him to also raise the hypocrisy of the Conservatives having received massive donations originating from Russians — a feature of Britain’s undemocratic system, by which political parties can be funded by interests that work against the people. In fact, the Tories received £820,000 from Russian companies and oligarchs over the past 20 months, and £3 million since 2010. The Labour Party has been pushing hard to amend the Sanctions & Anti-Money Laundering Bill by introducing “Magnitsky powers”, which could reduce fraud by allowing governments to seize assets from corrupt foreign officials. The Tories have been trying to block this amendment, and it’s not a huge stretch of the imagination to wonder if this stance is influenced by who their donors are. When combined with the government’s approach to Russia following the Skripal poisoning and their refusal to distance the UK from other corrupt regimes which abuse human rights, such as Saudi Arabia, this looks more and more like an attempt to distract from Tory corruption and immorality.

Claim 3

Corbyn sold information to a Soviet spy

Jeremy Corbyn sold information to a Czechoslovakian Soviet spy in the 1980s.

The reality

There is no evidence that Corbyn — who only gained ministerial privileges in 2015 — ever provided any information to Radek Schovánek, an analyst from the Czechoslovakian defence ministry, who has also claimed to have organised Live Aid, with Czech financial backing. Conservative MP Ben Bradley was forced to apologise and make a charity donation, for falsely tweeting that Corbyn had sold British secrets to communist spies.

Claim 4

Corbyn is an IRA sympathiser

Jeremy Corbyn refused five times to directly condemn the IRA in an interview with Sky News.

The reality

Corbyn said in the interview “I condemn all the bombing by both the loyalists and the IRA.” It even says so in text, in the third paragraph of the Sky News article making the claim that he refused five times. The parroting of outright false claims unfortunately tends to spread like wildfire through the media and has greater influence on public opinion than the truth, which lies right under people’s noses. Corbyn made no secret of the fact that he met with IRA leaders — whilst Thatcher was negotiating with them in private and lying to the public by saying she wouldn’t negotiate with terrorists. Another Angry Voice’s well-referenced article delves much deeper into the IRA issue than this piece intends to. The correct approach for dealing with conflict is to engage with both sides in an effort to help them negotiate and arrive at a diplomatic solution. Furthermore, why should Corbyn be forced into condemning the non-violent actions of the Irish republican movement? The ultra-conservative unionist movement was equally violent, and backed by the UK because of its imperialistic claim to Northern Ireland. Sinn Féin can, by all means, be condemned for its links to the IRA, but equal scrutiny should be applied to Tory support for the vile DUP — who prop up May’s government by means of a bribe — and the UUP.

Claim 5

Corbyn is a Stalinist

Jeremy Corbyn’s policies, such as nationalisation of basic services, are influenced by Stalinism. “The prevailing ideological climate of Corbyn’s circle tends more towards the other primary stream of European Marxism-Leninism, i.e. Stalinism (that is, support for the totalitarian Soviet state as well as — for unclear reasons — its gangster capitalist successor state, the Russian Federation).

The reality

Corbyn is a prominent supporter of renationalisation of transport and utilities, including the rail network, Royal Mail, water and electricity. Many basic services, such as water, gas, electricity, telecoms, mail, buses, rail, NHS services, police services and even river and forest management, were state-run in the UK, until they were ruthlessly sold off to private enterprise, under every Conservative and New Labour government that has existed since Thatcher came to power in 1979 — and the process is still ongoing. The short-term benefit to consumers theoretically includes reduced tax burden for supporting the running of the services and increased quality of service. However, in reality these benefits rarely reach the consumer, and when they do, they are short-lived. The long-term effect is damaging for everyone apart from the richest in society, who can afford to invest in shares and make profit from stakeholder payouts, at the expense of the consumer. Often, these services remain subsidised by the taxpayer, despite being profit-driven. With natural monopolies, such as rail, the quality of service initially improved, but services are now massively overburdened and the situation has reached a crisis point, as companies have failed to invest in infrastructure, in order to keep profits high. As only one or two companies typically operate on most routes, there is no competitive drive forcing the operators to provide a good service or invest in the network. Other types of providers, such as water and power, need not necessarily be considered “natural monopolies”, as they can be spread out across the country. However, the inefficiency of managing multiple companies that provide the same basic service is incredibly wasteful and unnecessary. State-run services, if managed well by the government or independent, state-funded bodies, have the potential to offer the greatest efficiencies and best value, without relying on private capital and contributing to increasing wealth disparity. Furthermore, and somewhat ironically, many companies providing these basic services in the UK are run or partially owned by other countries’ state-run operators and foreign companies, including: EDF Energy (French state energy Électricité de France); npower energy (German company RWE); Thames Water (Chinese sovereign wealth fund); the National Grid (Qatar Investment Authority); South Western Railway (Hong Kong company MTR); Merseyrail, Greater Anglia & ScotRail Central train services and South & West London & North Surrey bus services (Netherlands state operator Abellio); Government Pipeline & Storage System (Oman & UAE, via a Spanish company they own); Arriva bus services, across the UK (German state operator Deutsche Bahn); and more (including 70% of rail routes). As a result, the quality of rail service has plummeted, whilst fares continue to increase at 2–3 times the rate of inflation, most years. Renationalisation would be easy to achieve — as much as I would love to see them seized by the state overnight, this would break existing contracts and wreak havoc for the government. Instead, as existing contracts expire, they can be gradually absorbed by the state. And nationalisation is popular, backed by the public with regards to the police (87%), NHS (84%), armed forces (83%), schools (81%), mail service (65%), railways (60%), water (59%), BBC (58%), energy (53%) and bus services (50%)! Whilst state-run services were part of the Soviet strategy under Stalin, nationalisation itself it not a Stalinist idea. It was adopted by the post-war Labour Party in the UK, as well as by other European social democratic governments, and remains commonplace in many capitalist countries. Nationalisation can take various forms. Under capitalist systems, such as modern social democracy, capitalistic forces can remain heavily implicated in the process. Under a Marxist approach, ownership is transferred from private capital to the state, but is democratically controlled by the workers. This differs from Stalinism, under which democratic control was lacking. John McDonnell backs a more democratic approach to renationalisation which cannot be compared with Stalinism — a term which is often misappropriated to the left-wing of the Labour Party as a smear, in an attempt to associate socialism with authoritarianism and genocide. Whilst Corbyn has been associated with Stalinists, these people support not the genocide that occurred under Stalin’s regime, but his approach towards controlling everything through the state. Whilst Corbyn himself is not a Stalinist, it has been his approach to work with various groups on the left as a way of dealing with the right-wing of his party, although this association may serve to harm him, rather than to help his democratic socialist agenda.

Claim 5

Corbyn has enabled antisemitism to become rampant in the Labour Party

Jeremy Corbyn’s has expressed antisemitic views himself and/or has facilitated the spread of antisemitism, which is now commonplace within the Labour Party membership.

The reality

Corbyn has been one of the most prominent anti-discrimination activists in recent history. There has been an unfounded and persistent smear campaign against Corbyn since 2016, most recently coming back to prominence in March 2018, when The Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council organised a protest against his alleged failure to deal with the issue of antisemitism within the Labour Party. This continued into April, when he was criticised for attending a far-left Jewish group’s seder — a meal in celebration of passover — because the group’s radical views do not conform to the media’s standard of what represents a “Jew”. I have explored this in more depth in a letter I recently published:

In summary

Corbyn is a dignified left-wing politician who has remained loyal to his views throughout his career and has stood his ground when unreasonably challenged or even smeared. He does not indulge in petty action against his accusers — instead, he lets his policies and his record speak for themselves. Unfortunately, the latest claims of antisemitism are perfectly timed to potentially disrupt Labour’s campaign in the run-up to the English local elections on 3rd May. Although support for Labour actually rose after the ridiculous communist spy claims, antisemitism may be taken more seriously by the electorate, as the issue is more nuanced and less obviously outright slander. All we can do is wait and see — and in the meantime, help spread the truth about Corbyn’s record.

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