FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

I’d Rather be Leftist than Leftovers

by

Like many a Leftist Brit who refuses to “pivot” (I hate that word) rightwards, I was outraged by the less than sly effort by leftover Blairites in the British Labour party to effectively charge people to vote for Jeremy Corbyn to remain as party leader. He was elected on September 12, 2015 so the fact that there is another leadership election already is suspicious enough.

But in a not too thinly veiled attempt to subvert democratic rights — specifically those of the multitude who have flocked to Corbyn since he was voted in as leader the first time— Labour party members who have been in the party for less than six months will be barred from taking part in the September 2016 leadership election unless they pay £25.  That’s about $33 under the current post-Brexit exchange rate that decimated the value of the pound.

When I posted a home-made Keep Calm and Keep Corbyn poster on my Facebook page, I expected a “dislike” from any lingering Blairites out there  —I think I have only one such “friend” — still clinging to “New Labour,” the disaster that handed us the Tories and Brexit. But the pushback came from a more surprising quarter.

“A Putin apologist with a 19th Century mindset leading a party that wants to relive the 1890, 1920 and 1970s? Britain needs at least two new progressive parties fit for the 21st Century. Labour is not it,” wrote R. Andreas Kraemer.

Kraemer is one of those Facebook friends I am not sure how I acquired but who I definitely respect. Founder of the Ecologic Institute, he is also a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Sustainability Studies in Potsdam, Germany; Senior Fellow at the Centre for International Governance in Waterloo, Ontario; and Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science and Adjunct Professor of German Studies at Duke University. He has credentials.

But I was thrown by this particular critique of Corbyn. Some of my best friends are Corbynites. Could this possibly be true?

Most of the “Putin apologist” accusations come from right wing rags like the Daily Mail, instantly undermining credibility (this is the paper, after all, that headlined Corbyn as a “Sexpot Trot.”)

Yet Corbyn’s stance doesn’t really seem to be about Putin personally, much though the Blairites would like to paint him as some sort of Stalinist throwback. It seems to be about the futility of war.

Maybe the humble Corbyn, who sits on the floor of packed trains and rides the bus to work, doesn’t believe in the cult of personality, either. Here is what Corbyn actually said about his preferred response if Russia invaded a NATO ally:

“I would want to avoid us getting involved militarily by building up the diplomatic relationships and not isolate any country in Europe.

“I don’t wish to go to war, what I want to do is achieve a world where we don’t need to go to war, where there is no need for it — that can be done.”

Does this stance exemplify the nostalgia my friend Andreas was scorning? Has the alternative really worked better? Or is Corbyn at worst guilty of not being very Three Musketeerish when it comes to NATO?

Corbyn does not want any more Aleppo Boys or Drowned Boys on the Beach. He does not share the American value of invade first, ask questions later, which leads to the destruction and collapse of countries with the poor and disenfranchised suffering the most. While U.S. Republicans are chafing at the bit to start a new Cold War with Russia, Corbyn would rather talk. This seems pragmatic to me, however villainous Putin almost certainly is.

I’ll admit though that I am guilty as charged when it comes to yearning for the Leftie Days of Yore. I miss the spectacular trades union banners, the candle-lit windows during the miners’ strike, the marches to restore democracies in Greece, Argentina, Chile. I have a whole collection of pins I can’t even remember how I acquired, including “MPLA for Angola,” “Chile Resists,” “Stop the Sackings,” and “Recognize the PRG.” I am glad that CND is still going and is still meaningful. Greenham Common women? Presente!

We should not repeat the mistakes of history and we should most definitely learn from them. But should we also perhaps replicate, rather than disavow, our successes?

Recently, during one of my nostalgia binges, I stumbled upon the archives of the British Society for Social Responsibility in Science, a collection of largely Marxist scientists intent on changing society, and thereby the role of science within it, to benefit working people. During my search, I came across a pamphlet entitled, “Nuclear Power — The Rigged Debate,” published in 1981 by the BSSRS’s Politics of Energy Group.

Early in the first section there were some telling observations that still ring true.  Sadly.

“The anti-nuclear arguments have often been on the defensive against an industry possessing much of the key information and specialists (and virtually all of the money),” the unnamed authors wrote. “The ‘debate’ is reduced to a battle of plausibilities, which few people can be bothered to follow even when we take the trouble to decode the jargon.”

The authors argued that nuclear energy was developed, at least in the UK, because it was the easiest form of energy supply the state could control. It was an excellent way to destroy the coal miners’ union. It was also quite useful in suppressing Third World countries into submission as we plundered their uranium.

The “rigged” debate they refer to, is relished today even more eagerly than before, especially by the mainstream media. It is all about conflicting opinion.

But the authors wanted us to look deeper.  For example, rather than just debate the so-called “safe” level of exposure to radiation, we should “at the same time understand how and why such a unit was devised in the first place, as a way of making the risks of deadly radiation more ‘acceptable’ to workers.”

There is not space here to do this pamphlet justice and it is a fascinating tract. It forces us to see that nuclear energy was chosen for political, not scientific reasons, for control of the workforce, not the benefit of humankind.

Is it a wonderful throwback written in language so rooted in Marxism as to be dismissed or even ridiculed by today’s modernists? Is reading it now symptomatic of an attempt to relive the past? Possibly. Or is it an important document that informs our present, a reminder that we in fact refused to learn the lessons it sought to teach us?

Yes, Britain does need progressive parties. Corbyn is well positioned to put the “you” back in Labour and restore it to working people. Blair destroyed that. The strongholds of Brexit in the working north are the most compelling evidence of this.

Those who labour need Corbyn. Messiah he is not. But, like far too few of us, age has not edged him toward the center. He has held fast to his principles and his integrity. He has not betrayed working people. If that makes him a Leftie of the 1970s or even the 1890s, then that’s fine with me.

More articles by:

Linda Pentz Gunter is the international specialist at Beyond Nuclear. She also serves as director of media and development. 

February 22, 2018
Jeffrey Sommers
Bond Villain in the World Economy: Latvia’s Offshore Banking Sector
Mark Schuller
Haiti’s Latest Indignity at the Hands of Dogooders, Oxfam’s Sex Scandal
T.J. Coles
How the US Bullies North Korea, 1945-Present
Ipek S. Burnett
Rethinking Freedom in the Era of Mass Shootings
Manuel E. Yepe
Fire and Fury: More Than a Publishing Hit
Patrick Bobilin
Caught in a Trap: Being a Latino Democrat is Being in an Abusive Relationship
Laurel Krause
From Kent State to Parkland High: Will America Ever Learn?
Terry Simons
Congress and the AR-15: One NRA Stooge Too Many
George Wuerthner
Border Wall Delusions
Manuel García, Jr.
The Anthropocene’s Birthday, or the Birth-Year of Human-Accelerated Climate Change
Thomas Knapp
Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Russiagate
February 21, 2018
Cecil Bothwell
Billy Graham and the Gospel of Fear
Ajamu Baraka
Venezuela: Revenge of the Mad-Dog Empire
Edward Hunt
Treating North Korea Rough
Binoy Kampmark
Meddling for Empire: the CIA Comes Clean
Ron Jacobs
Stamping Out Hunger
Ammar Kourany – Martha Myers
So, You Think You Are My Partner? International NGOs and National NGOs, Costs of Asymmetrical Relationships
Michael Welton
1980s: From Star Wars to the End of the Cold War
Judith Deutsch
Finkelstein on Gaza: Who or What Has a Right to Exist? 
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
War Preparations on Venezuela as Election Nears
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Military Realities
Steve Early
Refinery Safety Campaign Frays Blue-Green Alliance
Ali Mohsin
Muslims Face Increasing Discrimination, State Surveillance Under Trump
Julian Vigo
UK Mass Digital Surveillance Regime Ruled Illegal
Peter Crowley
Revisiting ‘Make America Great Again’
Andrew Stewart
Black Panther: Afrofuturism Gets a Superb Film, Marvel Grows Up and I Don’t Know How to Review It
CounterPunch News Service
A Call to Celebrate 2018 as the Year of William Edward Burghardt Du Bois by the Saturday Free School
February 20, 2018
Nick Pemberton
The Gun Violence the Media Shows Us and the State Violence They Don’t
John Eskow
Sympathy for the Drivel: On the Vocabulary of President Nitwit
John Steppling
Trump, Putin, and Nikolas Cruz Walk Into a Bar…
John W. Whitehead
America’s Cult of Violence Turns Deadly
Ishmael Reed
Charles F. Harris: He Popularized Black History
Will Podmore
Paying the Price: the TUC and Brexit
George Burchett
Plumpes Denken: Crude thinking
Binoy Kampmark
The Caring Profession: Peacekeeping, Blue Helmets and Sexual Abuse
Lawrence Wittner
The Trump Administration’s War on Workers
David Swanson
The Question of Sanctions: South Africa and Palestine
Walter Clemens
Murderers in High Places
Dean Baker
How Does the Washington Post Know that Trump’s Plan Really “Aims” to Pump $1.5 Trillion Into Infrastructure Projects?
February 19, 2018
Rob Urie
Mueller, Russia and Oil Politics
Richard Moser
Mueller the Politician
Robert Hunziker
There Is No Time Left
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Decides to Hold Presidential Elections, the Opposition Chooses to Boycott Democracy
Daniel Warner
Parkland Florida: Revisiting Michael Fields
Sheldon Richman
‘Peace Through Strength’ is a Racket
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail