Sunday 16 August 2015

The left-wing case against Corbyn: some links

I’ve become increasingly disheartened and frustrated at seeing friends and colleagues whom I like and respect falling for Corbynmania. However, rather than launch into yet another pointless dispute on Facebook or Twitter, I thought I’d put together a collection of some of the best arguments I’ve read for not electing Corbyn as Labour leader, and direct people here.

I’m no longer a Labour Party member, so I don’t really have a horse in this race. But I do care about the state of British politics, and I believe we need a credible and electable opposition party – rather than one lost in nostalgia for discredited policies that sent the party into the political wilderness for a decade, or one with a leader given to expressing solidarity with authoritarian and anti-democratic movements.

Since all of the authors cited below have impeccable left-wing credentials, perhaps their arguments will have greater power to persuade than mine. So here are links to four articles, with key quotations from each:
 First up, self-described ‘libertarian democratic socialist’ Paul Anderson:

Politicians’ records are open to scrutiny as never before – and they are able to get away with platitudinous nonsense and worse because the internet has created a populist noise that has made everyone a valued player and has thereby simultaneously devalued expertise and nuance. Corbyn’s record on foreign affairs is a case in point. The first thing to know about him is that he’s a boilerplate leftist with a Chomskyite thicko’s take on the world. American imperialism is the greatest evil in the world. Apartheid was the second-greatest evil – forget about Soviet totalitarianism – but now it’s Israel as US proxy in the Middle East. Nato expansion is the root of Russia’s current authoritarianism. It was a bit of a mistake to get rid of Gaddafi and at least Assad is secular and allows girls to go out in public. And, er, that’s it. 
Next, Nick Cohen, Observer columnist and author of What’s Left:

The tribune of the left, the indomitable defender of equality and decency, is also the greatest apologist for clerical fascism in the British parliament. Corbyn indulges radical Islam, and by extension  all that comes with it: the subjugation of women; the judicial murder of homosexuals in compliance with sharia law; the racism, most evident in its anti-Semitic conspiracy theories; the denial of democratic rights, the demand to create a global caliphate must bring; and the denial of religious freedom the sharia-prescribed death penalties for blasphemy and apostasy do bring with miserable regularity. Islamism is against everything the left pretends to believe in. But in Britain and elsewhere, leftists rather than conservatives are the first to defend it.

And here’s James Bloodworth, editor of Left Foot Forward:

The best case against Corbyn is not that he is a wild-eyed socialist, but [… ] he is remarkably good at proffering apologetics for dictatorship and tyranny. As well as Gaddafi, Corbyn has in recent years championed/made excuses for Venezuelan autocrat Hugo Chavez, Russian gay-basher Vladimir Putin, the butcher of Bosnian Muslims Slobodan Milosevic and the Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.
 He has also worked for Iranian state broadcaster Press TV (home of Holocaust deniers and other cranks) and has referred to fascistic terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah as his "friends". […] The truth is that, however much a Corbyn-led Labour party might claim to be standing up for the most vulnerable, it will always and everywhere be willing to sacrifice the very people it ought to stick up for – the world's democrats, secularists, Jews, gays and women – on the ideological altar of anti-Americanism. This, as I will never tire of pointing out, ought to make Corbyn persona non grata for any principled person of the left.

Finally, an open letter to Corbyn from Alan Johnson (the Fathom editor and professor of politics, not the MP):

You represent a clear alternative to the suffocating consensus that says there is no alternative to neoliberalism: […] But you won’t get my vote. You won’t get it because Labour’s best traditions also include anti-fascism and internationalism while your support – to me, inexplicable and shameful –  for the fascistic and antisemitic forces of Hezbollah and Hamas flies in the face of those traditions. In particular, your full-throated cheer-leading for the vicious antisemitic Islamist Raed Salah is a deal-breaker. […] And it isn’t just a problem with Salah, is it? You said it was ‘my pleasure and my honour’ to host ‘our friends from Hezbollah and our friends from Hamas’ in the Commons. Really? Why do you not care that the Hamas Charter states that ‘Islam will obliterate Israel’ and enjoins all good Muslims to kill Jews, whom it blames for all the wars and revolutions in classic antisemitic fashion? […] I just do not understand how you can support so unthinkingly those political forces which oppose to their dying breath everything  – literally, everything – the labour movement has ever stood for: trade union rights, freedom of speech and organisation, women’s equality, gay and lesbian rights, anti-racism, the enlightenment, and reason. But as long as you do support those forces you will not get my vote.
Also recommended: these insights from Gary Kent, Rob Marchant and David Paxton.