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Corbyn and the Israel/Islam/Putin/Trident critique

Hammer Corbyn1An entire journalistic cottage industry now exists (such as here and here and here and here) devoted to making the claim that Jeremy Corbyn is an overgrown adolescent CNDer harbouring a lingering atavistic attachment to Russian nationalism, with participants frequently coming as close as libel laws permit to averring outright anti-semitism on the Labour leader’s part.

It’s not that Jezza is actually a goose-stepping proto-pogromist himself, the story goes. And probably he wouldn’t have given Litvinenko that polonium-210 laced cuppa with his own fair hand. But that’s only because he normally gets Seumas Milne to run FSB errand boy duties for him.

However, Hamas are his homeboys, and Corbyn is never more chirpy than when he gets a chance to make spurious apologies for Russia’s carve up of the Ukraine on Press TV, while leaving Britain open to nuclear blackmail from Pyongyang. Or something like that, anyway.

Some of these issues in have specific resonance for sections of the electorate. Many British Jews are opposed to Israel’s repeated brutal onslaughts on Palestine, but uncomfortable with rhetorical support for forces who do not accept the existence of that state in the first place.

For blue collar trade unionists whose employment are dependent on the arms industry, one of Britain’s few remaining world class manufacturing sectors, scrapping Trident would put their livelihoods are on the line.

Their legitimate concerns have undeniably been handled badly, and an effort now does need to be made to mend fences.

But there is also a level on which these issues have become emblematic, presented as a kind of ideological shorthand by those whose real objections are to the break that Corbyn represents with New Labourism, and whatever label ultimately comes to be attached to the interregnum under Brown and Miliband.

So commonly are the issues linked that cumulatively they constitute what might be called the Israel/Islam/Putin/Trident critique of Corbynism, or IIPT for short.

All too often the invective is ramped up by shrill, hysterical and alarmist hyperbole. Examples include Toby Young’s recent offering for The Spectator, entitled ‘Jeremy Corbyn and the hard left are wilfully blind to the evils of Islamist Nazis’.

Elsewhere, Simon Sebag Montefiore weighs in with a piece in the Evening Standard, published under the headline ‘Jeremy Corbyn’s world view is founded on the Left’s hatred of the West’.

Those are just two recent cases in point. Pick a Nick Cohen article more or less at random, and you’ll get the same spiel.

But how far does the IIPT critique stack up? For starters, as Corbyn made clear in an interview with The Jewish Chronicle, he explicitly backs calls for a secure Israel as part of a two state policy for peace in the Middle East. Whisper it softly, but that actually makes him a Zionist.

However, Hamas are necessary protagonists in any settlement, a fact that those political forces in Israel seriously interested in coming to pragmatic agreement themselves take on board. ‘Friends’ might be stretching a point, but they are future negotiating partners, at least for as long as their maintain their democratic mandate in Gaza.

Scandalously, even David Cameron has attempted to brand Corbyn and Labour opponents of bombing Syria as a ‘bunch of terrorist sympathisers’.

Corbyn’s response could hardly be characterised as kowtowing to Islamofascism. As he made clear in a speech to the House of Commons: ‘The so-called Islamic State has imposed a reign of sectarian and inhuman terror in Iraq, Syria and Libya.’

Corbyn’s much-publicised position that the Kremlin feels threatened by NATO encirclement is entirely in line with mainstream opinion among international relations scholars, including many of not particularly leftist hue.

You can read Corbyn’s article on the Ukraine crisis for yourself here. In the parts that don’t get quoted by his detractors, he explicitly states that ‘sending unidentified forces into another country is clearly a violation of that country’s sovereignty’; highlights the lack of public support in Russia for Putin’s strategy; and opposes any foreign military intervention. That’s any foreign military intervention, as in ‘any foreign military intervention’. Clear enough, you’d have thought.

What we have here amounts to little more than realism in international relations, a technical term for a school of thought boiling down to the proposition that states are rational, self-interest maximising actors in the international political system. Russia remains a great power. Putin regards Ukraine as ‘the near abroad’ and is going to play hardball in defence of his vital interests.

Yes, Owen Jones is entirely right to highlight Putin’s toxic brand of authoritarian chauvinism, which can be read as a disapproval of Corbyn’s silence following the Litvinenko report. But Corbyn’s recognition of the world as it cannot logically be read as implying moral approbation, let alone ‘hatred of the West’.

Finally, plenty of level-headed Establishment opinion on both sides of the Atlantic would agree with him that renewal of Trident represents a spectacularly misguided defence strategy for Britain. That is before we even get to the rational democratic socialist arguments for a non-nuclear defence posture. That £100bn could be far better spent, in ways that could address the fears of manufacturing workers in towns dependent on defence contracts. And Corbyn has floated the possibility of a non-nuclear submarine as a possible alternative.

In sum, I cannot think of any precedent in British political history for such a concocted farrago of accusations of extremism directed at the leader of a major democratic political party. All of this is not only dirty pool, it’s offensive and childishly stupid pool as well. Those seeking sticks with which to beat Jezza could at least do everyone the courtesy of rising to adult levels of political debate.

41 Comments

  1. gerry says:

    I just wish Jeremy would actually explicitly and unambiguously ally with democratic socialists and if not them, progressive secularists in his worldview and statements…that would be a morally consistent position for a Labour leader to take. Condemn BOTH Saudi Arabia and Iran. Condemn BOTH US imperialism and Russian imperialism. Condemn Hamas, Hezbollah as well as the extremist Zionist settler right, and see Islamic fundamentalism for the hard-right ideology it so clearly is, and say so. But neither he, not Milne, nor Stop the War ever do this. They genuinely see the West as the fount of all evil in the world, and they genuinely see Putin’s Mafia regime in Russia is “anti imperialist”. They genuinely see islamists and jihadis as natural allies. His worldview is sickening, and that is the truth (but on the plus side, on nuclear disarmament, he does make a strong socialist case)…

    1. Andy Newman says:

      I just wish Jeremy would actually explicitly and unambiguously ally with democratic socialists and if not them, progressive secularists in his worldview and statements…that would be a morally consistent position for a Labour leader to take.

      This sums up the logical fallacy of a lot of “left” discussions of foreign policy.

      The aspiration is surely to secure a left government in the UK, within the limits of the sovereignty of the UK state, and the bounds of political, social and economic possiblity that government can then enact a legislative programme and a practice of government that is consistent with its beliefs and objectives.

      However, the sovereignty of the UK state does not extend to the rest of the world, and the foreign policy objectives of the government cannot be the same as its domestic policies.

      To take one example, the Pakistani journalist, and expert on the Taliban, Ahmed Rashid has commented that the predeliction for the US government to determine its foreign policy relationships with Afghanistan and Pakistan based upon domestic political considerations has been disastrous, in leading to unhelpful judgements that have led away from the promotion of peace and stability.

      The UK state’s legitimate foreign policy objectives are the defence of the UK, the protection of UK citizens and the promotion of British interests abroad, the upholding of international law, and where appropriate, the upholding of UN resolutions. Of course the promotion of British interests may include the assistance to allies, and also the promotion of “British values”.

      However, it is a reasonable position, and one consistent with a great deal of expert opinion within the field of International Relations, that the best way of promoting British interests is to seek peace, stability, economic prosperity and the rule of law. The paradox is that a socialist foreign policy is a realist one and in alignment with much of the establishment. I recall with humour that my personal views on the status of Tibet were castigated over at Harry’s Place blog as “extremist”, despite the fact that my view is the same as HM government, and the then Foreign Secretary, David Miliband!

      You might argue therefore that while socialists in Britain may take a different view from the Iranian government on a number of issues, in the interests of seeking a stable political settlement in Afghanistan or Syria for example, then “condemning” the Iranian state and promoting “secularism” might not be the best way of working for a win win outcome with the Iranian government?

      It might also be useful to actually understand how other societies and political forces work and seek a dialogue based upon understanding, rather than relying on cartoon type caricatures.

      Of course not all political problems can be solved by dialogue, and personally I do see ISIL as needing to be defeated by military action. However, again we see much political discussion in the UK about Syria based upon simplistic and foolish posturing that ignores the realities on the ground.

      1. gerry says:

        Andy – the points you make are profoundly un-socialist.

        Why don’t you want a Labour leader who views the world from a socialist perspective?

        Why don’t you want a Labour leader who argues for socialism as the solution – for every country including the UK, Iran, Russia , Saudi Arabia, Spain, USA?

        That is the abc of international socialism, Andy, yet you and Stop the War and Milne and others prefer a “dialogue based on understanding” with murderous regimes such as Iran (whose leaders murder socialists, trade unionists, gays and lesbians) and Russia( a kleptocratic gangster regime, rotten to the core)….you just don’t get it: yours and Corbyn’s foreign policy is actually the same as that of Blair or Merkel or Cameron or Obama: just like you, they ally with islamists (Saudi Arabia), jihadis (in Syria), murderous dictators and authoritarians (Erdogan and a hundred others).

        You support the same forces, although yours go by different surnames. And none of you support the cause of democratic socialists or secular progressives abroad. Worse, you all betray them in your alliances with islamists, jihadis, fake anti imperialists like Putin. Sick.

        1. John Penney says:

          Unfortunately so much of what the unreconstructed Stalinist, Andy Newman ,says on so many of his posts is based on a cynical accommodation with regimes, from the past, or in today’s world, of the most viciously anti working class kind.

          This stretches from his endless denials of the viciously reactionary nature of the Stalinist Regimes – from the historic USSR of the Purges and Gulags, to China under the mass murderer Mao, or today.

          Now Andy wants us on the Left to “show understanding” to the murderous theocratic tyranny of Iran, and the murderous Baathist kleptocratic 40 year dictatorship of the Assad clan ! And why ? Well actually because these gruesome states are key components of the old USSR’s (and now Putin’s entirely capitalist Mafioso Oligarchy – which bizarrely seems to have inherited the loyalty of old Stalinists like Andy Newman , and Seamus Milne’s ) approved list of anti Western allies, ie, “the Axis of resistance”.

          This is an argument on the same level of sophistry as the nutters who put a (failed) motion a year ago to the Left Unity Conference advocating a more sympathetic approach to Islamic State “because it was helping to destroy the 1918 colonialist boundaries of the Middle east, and therefore in historical terms could be seen as progressive” !

          Its is quite right to point out the cynical all out effort by the mass media to demonise Jeremy Corbyn and his team. The problem is that in relation to too much of the political baggage of some of Jeremy’s team their deeply flawed Stalino/Trot background politics makes this demonization project so much easier than it should be – particularly in their softness towards dictatorships which hide behind the bogus and slippery label of “anti imperialism”..

          1. gerry says:

            Really good analysis John.

    2. John P Reid says:

      Quite

  2. John Traynor says:

    The incoherent and dishonest attacks on Corbyn from both the right-wing media/politicians and the liberal (small ‘l’) media and Progress mob are all motivated by the same fear: They are scared of what Corbyn’s success may lead to. Even though Corbyn is not a revolutionary messiah, any tendency to challenge the gangsterism of capitalism frightens the life out of establishment figures and their cronies.

    1. Dave Roberts says:

      No. They, like me, are afraid that the extremist and incoherent positions he takes will prevent Labour being elected. Simples.

      1. Ray Visino says:

        The Blairite wing of the party will make sure Corbyn loses the next election – anything to get back their hold on our party. Never has a party leader been attacked so consistently and unpleasantly by his own side.

        1. David Ellis says:

          More likely that the `moderates’ so-called will ride back into power on the coat tails of Corbyn’s anti-austerity only to then refuse to form a government behind him preferring instead to link up with the Cameron wing of the Tories, the Lib Dems and the Ulster Unionists to form a pro-austerity government of national unity or emergency. This is why it is vital that every Blair Cub and Brownie is de-selected and where they have not be de-selected that a pro-Corbyn candidate be put up against them.

  3. Syzygy says:

    I thought this was very useful information showing how to counter jibes about Trident Submarines without nuclear warheads:

    ‘Trident submarines carry 16 missiles with 4 warheads each. That means they can strike 64 targets with nuclear or if requested, non-nuclear explosive warheads. They also carry Submarine Launched Cruise Missiles (SLCM) which are fired underwater from the torpedo tubes, exit the water, sprout wings and fly through the enemy window of your choice 1,000 miles away. Submarines also carry powerful torpedoes, mines, special forces and a vast array of highly sensitive listening and surveillance equipment. Their sonar can hear a motorboat in New York’s harbour from here in the UK.’

  4. David Ellis says:

    Corbyn is a neo-Stalinist. He supports the `paranoid’ response of Putin’s imperialist Russia to the desire of its satellite states and nations for self-determination. He opposes ISIS but only because he supports Assad and likes to paint the revolution against him as some sort of CIA/Islamist conspiracy. At the same time these neo-Stalinists are anxious to decamp the Syrian refugees to Europe and to sympathise with the Islamist slaughterers of cartoonists. He does support the two-state peace lie and is therefore a Zionist as the article says because the neo-Stalinists support Fatah against the Palestinian Revolution as they support Assad against the Syrian Revolution and whilst he is correct to oppose Trident the idea that we should build the submarines anyway and just arm them with conventional weapons so a handful of Unite members can keep their awful jobs is barking.

    1. Andy Newman says:

      anxious to decamp the Syrian refugees to Europe

      Interestingly, 60% of refugees displaced by the Syrian civil war seek refuge in areas controlled by the Damascus government, where they are protected by the Syrian army

      1. Dave Roberts says:

        And your point is?

    2. Richard Tiffin says:

      Seems that neo Stalinist or NS needs to be added to IIPT scare mob. Now I know all concepts are elastic when used rhetorically, but Corbyn a Stalinist? Seriously?
      I would be really interested to see the argument that led to this conclusion.

  5. John P Reid says:

    I don’t think Owen jones, sensible criticism of Putin, was anything to do with,east west divides and Covyns silence is defeating ,it is possible not to want trident renewal, have no time for Israel,and still be worried by Islam.

  6. Paul Canning says:

    As the author of a series of posts on Corbyn’s attitude to the Ukraine, which have gone on to be mined elsewhere (and hurrah for that), I’m so pleased to be found “offensive and childishly stupid.”

    Personally, and I know Ukrainians feel the same, Corbyn saying that they were taken over by fascists in a coup engineered by the US is pretty ‘offensive’.

    Of course he says he opposes any foreign intervention, Dave, it’s “childishly stupid” to just cherrypick that. It’s about what happens next, when he goes on to say how Russian behaviour is understandable. That is, when it comes to such statements, ‘.. everything before the ‘but’ is moot’.

    Corbyn’s Ukraine attitude is better summarised as ‘she was wearing a short skirt and the Yanks put her up to it’.

    This may also be the opinion of ‘realpolitik’ types like Simon Jenkins and Peter Oborne but it’s a bit sad that the defence of Corbyn on this is reduced to that.

    1. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

      “Corbyn saying that they were taken over by fascists in a coup engineered by the US is pretty ‘offensive.”

      I honestly don’t know the details of that particular situation, (in the Ukraine,) but I do enough about American foreign and economic policy, (from the Bay of Pigs, the toppling of the Moassagh government in Iran, the American, (CIA,) backed coups in Greece and in Chile for example and so on and so on,) particularly post WW II to believe it.

      I fact I take it more or less the for grated in the light of such previous events and if some Ukrainians don’t, “get it,” then I can recommend a couple of American courses on word history that will, clarify things for them.

      You really couldn’t make it up.

      This is and always has been how the American operate and to deny it or to pretend otherwise is perhaps even more offensive still.

      As for the state Israel, (a country about the size of Wales,) a political mistake with whose predicament I deeply sympathize, (much as I despise their policies,) history, geography and demography are against them and America, (on whom they depend for their survival,) will always be a fickle and capricious friend.

      The walls of Constantinople stood for 900 years, I honestly doubt that Israel will last anything like that long in fact it almost a miracle they’ve lasted until now.

      1. Paul Canning says:

        Yes, I’m sure your average Ukrainian, in particular Ukrainian lefties, will adore your suggestion, J.P., that they have no idea about their own country. That they should take a history lesson, or rather ‘a couple of American courses on word history’.

        This is only a slightly more crude example of what passes for foreign policy analysis or even foreign reporting on much of the left I’m afraid.

        1. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

          Yes I think you are afraid, in fact I think you’re absolutely terrified; of the truth mate.

          The basis of my comment above is actually historic American foreign policy as it is currently being taught in many American universities and as such is quite unlikely to be the kind of doctrinaire left wing propaganda you are trying rather feebly to paint it as being.

          But we do agree on at least one thing if not necessarily it’s intended target.

          To me at least “offensive and childishly stupid,” seems to sum up your own dubious contribution to this discussion nicely, although I’d probably add more than somewhat pompous as well.

          “I remember a time where Trolls were a fictitious monster from fairy tales, not arseholes on the internet looking for attention.”

  7. Tony says:

    Denis Healey opposed NATO expansion as did Senator Bob Smith, a highly conservative Republican. Pat Buchanan has also criticied US policy towards Russia.

    Paul Nitze, architect of the Cold War, opposed NATO expansion. He also said that the US should unilaterally scrap all its nuclear weapons.

    You can read his 1999 article here.

    http://www.nytimes.com/1999/10/28/opinion/a-threat-mostly-to-ourselves.html

    1. Dave Roberts says:

      And the point of your comment is?

      1. Tony says:

        Read the article and you will see.

  8. swatantra says:

    Hamas and what ‘democratic mandate’ in Gaza?When were the last fair elections held10 years ago? What legitimacy has the Fatah Govt got? Whend id they submit themselves to fair and free elections?
    The only thing keeping th Palestinian ‘economy’ going is Foreign Aid and Charitable handouts.
    And all because of the stranglehold that the Zionists have on the Territories.

  9. Jane says:

    These comments are so last year.
    Jeremy is so ahead of his time. I did not think his kind of talk was possible to hold. Now, its even happening on BBC. Please catch up.

  10. Bazza says:

    Zzzz article and comments.
    Canvassed for Labour in local elections on Sunday and it was a good approach asking people if they had issues that we could take up – genuine grassroots community politics so we do things with instead of for.
    Got a young person at work this week to think about joining a trade union.
    Attacked the vile Tory Govt re proposed charges in the NHS for refugees and asylum seekers and once there is a bureaucracy for charging in the NHS YOU WILL BE NEXT!
    Meanwhile millions of working class people/working people in the UK and globally are struggling to survive.
    Oh and the tragedy of Zica in Latin America is due to poverty and the poor quality of water and poor health and safety concerning this.
    Politics is simple on the left really – you are either a bourgeois socialist who are top down, have all the answers, have possibly a ready made programme, and need to deposit your programme into the heads of the working class/working people and then your elite central committe will deliver socialism FOR us all.
    Or you are a left wing democratic socialist who believes in a grassroots, bottom up, participatory approach (and peaceful) and you may be bursting with ideas but welcome ideas from below and are happy for your ideas to be tested and for these to be amended or added to, and you will work to deliver a left wing democratic socialism WITH us all.
    We don’t perhaps particularly need a leader, but perhaps we need a faciltator of grassroots power and I think Jeremy fits that bill.
    Love, peace and international solidarity.

    1. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

      Generally speaking I’d agree with you about most of that.

      But no one and particularly not our local, “bourgeois socialist,” MPs and all their too well heeled mates is seemingly going to anything about it.

      Of our 3 local Labor MP’s one is currently organizing a business consortium of local, (and some not really so local,) businesses and charities to bid for council funding, (on any pretext no matter how spurious or contrived,) and the second is yet another sticky fingered local government careerist, (who dislikes unemployed people and the disabled and has made no secret off it,) who as a former leader of the council has basically put our 60 elected local councilors out to grass, (they’re no longer allowed to vote on any financial matter without first completing a tedious and time consuming professional accreditation program being run by his mates,) who at the same time claims that his own tax dodging was due to an oversight and a convenient, “misunderstanding.”

      The other one is Simon Danczuk.

      Meanwhile, the management of our main local social housing provider, (at least this is my understanding of the situation,) having now dispensed with the elected tenants representatives who formerly sat on the board and also with our elected local councilors who also sat on their board are now advertising for 2 new members more to their liking probably already selected from the same narrow, incestuous entirely self serving group of out of control local mangers.

      At the same time that they are laying off tradespeople, one of their most senior mangers has just awarded them self a 12.5% pay rise, (or has changed their pension arrangements to the exactly same effect,) and so on and so on and so on.

      Grass roots, “we laugh at it.”

      1. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

        I’m going to burn in Hell now aren’t I ?

  11. AD 2015 says:

    I sort of agree with a lot of the points you make, but do you ever wonder why you have to protest quite so hard?

    Could it be perhaps that you’ve been very badly let down?

  12. Jim Denham says:

    Corbyn needs to get a grip onhis foreign policy. Talking about a deal with ISIS, and selling out the Falklanders’ right to self-determination, doesn’t inspire confidence. Nor does blaming the West for Putin’s Russian imperialism in Crimea.

    A pity, when his domestic policies are supportable for socialists.

    Basically, he needs to beak with the Stop The War Coalition and sack Milne.

    1. Karl Stewart says:

      So you support the Falkland Islanders right to self-determination, but not the Crimeans’ right to self-determination?

      1. Jim Denham says:

        I *do* support the Crimeans’ right to self-determination : do you, Karl? Or are you a supporter of Putin’s greater-Russian imperialism?

        1. Karl Stewart says:

          Absolutely.

          When they democratically expressed their collective wish to return to Russia, of course I fully supported them.

          1. Jim Denham says:

            But they didn’t, did they, Karl? they voted to separate, and were then attacked and sabotaged by Putin.

            An agreement on basic *facts* would enable us to have a proper discussion.

    2. David Ellis says:

      A deal with ISIS, the fascist enemy of the working class, is of course ridiculous but the Falklands costs the exchequer billions that could be spent on services here in the UK. It’s time to tell the Falkland Islanders to fuck off and pay for their own self-determination.

    3. David Ellis says:

      As for Ukraine it is of course basic principles for Marxists to oppose imperialist annexations. We support a unified Ukraine free from Russian interference and violence.

      1. Karl Stewart says:

        And by ‘we’ you mean you and your fellow right-wing neo-con Denman?

        And by “unified Ukraine” you mean within the borders of the Ukraine SSR during the latter part of the Soviet period?

        Or its borders during the middle part of the Soviet period?

        Or before WWII?

        Or immediately after WWI?

        “Ukraine” had different borders in each of these periods, which “Ukraine” do you and Denman want to see “unified”.

        And what will you do with those many millions who don’t want any part of this Nazi-run hellhole?

        1. David Ellis says:

          You are nothing more than a sad apologist for the Kremlin’s gangster Putin.

          1. Karl Stewart says:

            Which borders would your “unified Ukraine” exist within?

            Asking that question doesn’t make one a “Putin apologist”.

          2. David Ellis says:

            It has internationally recognised borders and Crimea is within them. No to annexations. No to imperialism. Victory to the Ukraine National Democratic Revolution against gangster capitalism.

  13. Karl Stewart says:

    The only ‘national revolution’ in the former Ukraine SSR is the one led by Pravy Sektor Nazis.

    The terror these Nazi thugs created among many millions of people was what sparked Crimea’s decision to leave this failed state and was what sparked independence movements in Donetsk, Lugansk, Kharkov and Odessa, and protests in other parts of the south and east of the former Ukraine SSR.

    But you would force those who have won their freedom back within an entirely artificially created ‘border’ (which itself was a result of ‘annexations) regardless of whether or not they want to?

    And yet you say you’re ‘left-wing’ and you say you support the principle of ‘self-determination’?

    Surely the only just and sustainable long-term solution for that troubled and tragic area is for a negotiated division into separate states based on respect for historic, cultural and linguistic differences.

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